The Department of Human Settlements will, from April 1, implement a number of policy amendments, Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi outlined at a briefing on March 25.
This follows the department’s visits to all nine provinces, where it engaged with leaders in the provinces, visited projects and heard feedback from beneficiaries, and then reflected on the findings and analysed the housing delivery system value chain as a whole.
Kubayi said that, for the coming financial year, the department would focus on unblocking blocked projects; eliminating asbestos roofs across provinces; increasing the pace of the provision of title deeds to rightful property owners, especially the pre-1994 stock; eliminating (dilapidated) mud houses, especially in the rural areas; and digitising the beneficiary list.
Kubayi noted that intergovernmental forum the Minister and Members of Executive Council (Minmec) endorsed these priorities.
Moreover, the department had realised the need to develop a structure in the form of a Human Settlements War Room, she informed.
The war room would, besides other responsibilities, coordinate, monitor and fast-track the implementation of diverse projects across provinces; provide detailed analysis and support in the implementation of Human Settlements Development Grants (HSDGs); provide project tracking tools on all projects to monitor and to report to the war room; identify strategic partners that could assist to unblock challenges; and create an enabling environment for cooperative governance in line with Intergovernmental Relations Act, Kubayi elaborated.
She added that Dan Gorbachev Mashitisho, former director-general of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs would lead the war room, joined by other specialists the department was in the process of appointing.
In terms of the HSDG, Kubayi said there were many incomplete and complete projects that had not been occupied because of a lack of bulk infrastructure.
Therefore, the structure of the HSDG had been reconfigured to allow for the delivery of bulk infrastructure. The allocation for bulk infrastructure had increased from 3% to 5%.
She said that if this was backed by a good plan, the allocation could be increased to up to 30% of the grant, especially in rural provinces.
Kubayi said that, in the 2022/23 financial year, the department would start implementing front-loading in two provinces – the Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape – under the Infrastructure Fund, which would enable it to considerably increase the scale of housing delivery in a short space of time.
In terms of social housing, Kubayi said that, since the last adjustment of the qualification criteria in 2018, tenants were struggling to pay their rentals owing to inflation and considerable increases in utility costs.
The department had revised the bands for households earning from R1 850 to R22 000 gross monthly income to qualify, up from the previous qualification criteria for household income of R1 500 to R15 000.
Kubayi also touched on the Finance-Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP), which is a housing subsidy that assists first-time home buyers. For buyers to qualify, they have to fall within a certain income bracket that is considered as the gap market, or the missing middle.
She said the programme, thus far, had not achieved the intended objectives for a number of reasons.
Therefore, with effect from the 2022/23 financial year, the FLISP would also extend to non-mortgage housing finance facilities, and accordingly, FLISP may be used in combination with several other products and situations.
Moreover, it will be referred to as ‘Help me buy a house’, to eliminate confusion regarding what it is aimed at, Kubayi informed.
Also, with effect from April 1, the FLISP quantum range would increase by between 7.2% and 10%.
Kubayi said the Banking Association of South Africa and the National Housing Finance Corporation had negotiated a memorandum of agreement to partner on the delivery of the FLISP, and it hopeed this would be signed soon.
With regard to the subsidy quantum, Kubayi said this had not been changed since 2018.
“In the period between then and now, the quantum has been affected by inflation which was starting to have an effect in the quality of housing units we were providing to beneficiaries,” she highlighted.
Therefore, as agreed at Minmec, the department had introduced changes, with effect from April 1, to its housing programmes.
Meanwhile, the department has also introduced several new directives applicable to provincial departments and municipalities so that it can change the manner of intervention in disaster areas, to ensure faster assistance.
These directives include a 24-hour turnaround period for the assessments of the disaster and fast-tracking of repairs through a voucher system.
With regard to financing, provinces and metros were now allowed to use available funds from the HSDG, the Urban Settlements Development Grant and the Informal Settlements Upgrade Partnership Grant to intervene in paying for damages.
“When I arrived in the portfolio, I made an undertaking that I would immediately put effort into the stabilisation of entities under the human settlements portfolio,” emphasised Kubayi, reporting that the department had appointed boards for five of its entities.
“I am well aware that the appointment of boards does not automatically bring stability to the entities; however, it is an important step.
“Most of these entities have multiple vacancies at an executive level. Some do not have the necessary technical skills to execute their mandate and yet others have organisational structures that are wholly unsuitable for the execution of their mandate. I have mandated the boards of these entities to make finding solutions to these challenges their number one priority,” Kubayi said.
She added that the boards would be given space to focus on the task of stabilising the entities for which they were responsible, and not tasked with conducting investigations.
Rather, she said she would approach the Special Investigating Unit to conduct an investigation into all its entities where there were claims of wrongdoing and corruption.