The Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia De Lille and Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma are a triad of leaders who can make a big difference in housing delivery.
During her previous tenure Minister Lindiwe Sisulu led the Human Settlements portfolio with much-needed vision and drive. The social housing sector welcomes her back as Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation. Sisulu’s energy and depth of understanding of the complex housing issues are essential to tackle the country’s housing crisis. This is especially so in the social housing sector which targets households with income of less than R15,000 per month, constituting millions of South Africans.
Social housing is a public rental programme which needs strong political support and collaboration between government departments located in the three various tiers of government. Sisulu has always supported the need for including a rental housing option as part of a range of housing solutions. Her return to the portfolio is good news to the millions renting in backyards, informal settlements and derelict buildings who are in need of decent and affordable rental housing.
The addition of water and sanitation to the Human Settlements ministry also bodes well for increasing the provision of basic services, an issue that has plagued many in informal settlements across the country. Service delivery is an ongoing problem as our population grows and urbanises with scores of young people settling in new settlements that lack water and sanitation services.
Access to serviced land in the right locations has been one of the biggest obstacles to the delivery of affordable housing. The state holds large land parcels and owns various buildings that are underutilised and which could be used for housing delivery. Regrettably, suitable and under-utilised state land is seldom released for housing and when it is, it takes over a decade to be made available. It is encouraging to see Minister Patricia de Lille take up a cabinet appointment as Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure.
During her troubled tenure as Mayor of Cape Town, de Lille championed spatial restructuring by releasing strategic land parcels for the delivery of social housing, including the old Salt River market and Pickwick Street in Cape Town. She has a keen grasp of housing issues and is well aware that the speedy release of state-owned land across the country is a bottleneck in housing delivery requiring her urgent attention. The social housing sector will be watching with keen interest to see if de Lille uses her new platform to fast track housing delivery.
Due to the current structure and disbursements of social housing grants, housing delivery is only possible with effective cooperation between the different spheres and tiers of government.
National government allocates grants to provinces which in turn makes allocations to local authorities on the basis of their planned housing developments.
These developments usually require approvals from a host of departments at various tiers of government. This may include, for example, from planning, engineering, water and sanitation departments at local government level as well as departments responsible for environmental management or heritage at a provincial level. Approval may also be required from national departments such as those responsible for water if, for example, a wetland or river may be affected by a planned development. Combining water and sanitation with human settlements may accelerate some of these bureaucratic but necessary processes.
It is also encouraging to see that the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has been retained in the smaller cabinet.
The ministry has a vital role to play in fast-tracking housing delivery and facilitating the cooperation needed between the various departments involved in the approval process before developments can proceed. The portfolio, under the leadership of Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a veteran politician with a clean track record, completes a triad of women in powerful positions who will have to work in close cooperation to deliver decent housing for all South Africans. DM
Anthea Houston is president of the National Association of Social Housing Organisations (NASHO) and CEO of Communicare, a provider of social housing rentals.
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