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ANC’s housing record as flimsy as Ramaphosa’s million units promise

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Matlhodi Maseko is Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Human Settlements, Western Cape Provincial Parliament.

The DA doesn’t confront the housing problem by making disingenuous arguments as the ANC’s Lionel Adendorf does, or by making unrealistic populist promises of a million houses in a single community as President Cyril Ramaphosa did in Alexandra last week.

One of the gaping holes in the ANC’s 2019 elections campaign is its total lack of any demonstrable record of success in government under 10 years of Jacob Zuma. On almost every indicator, our country has been taken to the edge of a cliff by the ANC’s corruption and State Capture, with a disastrous impact on public finances, our sovereign credit rating, economic growth and unemployment.

Faced with this difficulty, the ANC unsurprisingly resorts to disingenuous attacks on the only party with a credible record of success in government – the Democratic Alliance. The ANC’s attempts to peddle its 2004-2009 housing delivery record in the Western Cape is one such example.

Let’s deal with the facts.

In an opinion piece this week, Mr Lionel Adendorf focuses on the figure of 212,967 housing opportunities delivered in the Western Cape since 2009.

He adds up the housing opportunity figures for nine annual reports between 2009/10 and 2017/18 and arrives at a total of 187,975 housing opportunities.

What Mr Adendorf clearly forgets is that there is a 10th and final annual report to come, for which we have current records available.

When adding the 2018/19 delivery figures to the 188,000 opportunities of previous years, we arrive at the figure of more than 212,000 housing opportunities, in fact, closer to 215,000 on the yet-to-be-audited figures.

In fact, in the current term, we have exceeded our combined target for housing and serviced sites in every financial year since 2014/15.

Now let’s consider the ANC’s housing record in the Western Cape between 2004 and 2009.

Ironically, here Mr Adendorf offers the false claim that the ANC delivered on average 16,000 houses and 16,000 serviced sites a year over that period.

The problem is that record is disputed by no less than the Auditor-General, who could find no record of houses built across scores of projects the ANC claimed credit for.

The Western Cape Human Settlements Department has also spent millions fixing houses that were half-built or collapsing, which has become the hallmark of the ANC in government.

So the ANC’s housing record in the Western Cape is about as flimsy as President Ramaphosa’s promise in Alexandra last week to build one million houses in that community, at a rate of over 540 a day.

Besides housing, the Western Cape government has also placed an emphasis on property ownership as a pathway out of poverty.

Since 2009, 103,000 people have received title deeds across the Western Cape. The record of this is available, and in fact, in every financial year of the current term, the Western Cape has exceeded its title delivery targets by a minimum of 2,000.

And we’re not stopping here. The province’s catalytic projects programme will yield a total of 105,500 housing opportunities, currently in the pipeline for completion by 2022.

These opportunities are aimed at the poorest residents, and will benefit among others, informal settlement dwellers along the N2 southern corridor in Cape Town, farm workers in Transhex (Breede Valley) and Vlakkeland (Paarl), Belhar CBD and residents in the Southern Cape areas of Thembalethu, Wilderness Heights, Metro Grounds and Syferfontein (George).

We are walking the talk on these projects, with the N2 corridor nearing completion in Boys Town and Joe Slovo, construction well underway in Forest Village, and due to start in 2019 in Ithemba Farms, Penhill Farms, the Airport Precinct and other informal settlements.

In the George area, construction in Thembalethu has already moved into Stage 2 and commences in most of those communities in 2019.

This has all taken an immense amount of planning and community consultation, which only a capable state can do. The national government has acknowledged our progress on these major projects relative to other provinces.

We have also devised a path-breaking model for affordable housing that addresses the needs of residents in the gap market, those who do not qualify for a free house, but can make some sort of contribution to their housing.

The R3 billion Conradie Better Living Model development in Pinelands — an inner-city feeder suburb — has been designated as a Game Changer priority programme. A total of 1,800 units out of 3,600 will be affordable units for the working residents of Cape Town, innovatively cross-subsidised by market units and commercial space.

Other flagships include Belhar CBD, where a total of 4,188 units will be constructed over three phases, and the provincially owned Somerset Precinct close to the V&A Waterfront — arguably SA’s most valuable state-owned property.

In total there are more than 23,000 social rental housing units and 19,000 affordable ownership projects in the provincial planning pipeline over the next 10 years.

In light of these achievements, let’s return to the ANC’s record for a moment.

We share the frustration of District Six restitution claimants who have been forced to take the national government to court because it failed over 20 years to return them to the prime land on the slopes of Table Mountain.

The national government also owns the largest, most well-located pieces of land for affordable housing in the Cape Metro. The Western Cape government has called on the Presidency to release this land, which is currently under-used and owned primarily by Transnet and the SANDF.

An estimated 100,000 units are possible on just these five national government-owned mega-properties.

We have the model to deliver affordable housing on these sites, but once again we are faced with the obstacle of stagnant incompetence of ANC governance at a national level.

We continue to be firm advocates for fundamental reforms to national housing policy, and the nationally set subsidy regime, within which we must work.

Demand for housing is also simply too high to sustain the old models of free housing, and the subsidies available to the gap market have not kept pace with inflation, impacting on the viability of affordable housing developments.

Since 1994, the national housing backlog has grown from an estimated 1.5 million to 2.2 million.

Due to low economic growth and corruption at a national level, the state can no longer deliver housing at the rate it could in the 1990s.

We don’t confront this problem by making disingenuous arguments as Mr Adendorf does, or by making unrealistic populist promises of a million houses in a single community, as the president did in Alexandra last week.

Instead, we need deep, fundamental reform to the way the housing policy is positioned at a national level.

Government must understand that its key role in housing provision is to facilitate and incentivise large-scale private sector entry in low-cost formal housing, using subsidies to make the end product more affordable for the end-user, rather than free.

This approach needs to be backed by policies that promote economic growth and job creation and cut corruption.

Let us learn the right lessons from the past decade, and make the right choice on 8 May 2019. DM

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