Policies and Legislation of Department of Human Settlements: workshop

Committee: Human Settlements

Chairperson: Ms B Dambuza (ANC)

Date of Meeting: 08 Jun 2009

Summary

The background to housing policy and the Housing Act was discussed according to a summary of the new understanding of human settlements. The White Paper process on a New Housing Policy and Strategy for South Africa was elaborated on, as was the Housing Act of 1996. The Committee was briefed on different settlement types, ranging from freehold tenure of metropolitan settlements to communal tenure of subsistence farming settlements. Lastly the policy implications of the new housing strategy were discussed.

The members queried the Department on whether there were plans to rejuvenate small towns to create socio-economic opportunities. They referred to the problems ranging from rental housing to seasonal farm workers and asked what could be done to fill the gap in housing left by the failure of the People's Housing Process (PHP). Community participation in the Department's programmes, transport assistance and the handing back of a house were discussed. They asked what the Department’s name change represented and for comment on the target for the eradication of informal settlements by 2014. Members wondered what was meant by the “upgrading” of informal settlements and queried the silence on poorly built houses in government housing projects. Concern was raised about the size of houses and the credibility of the Integrated Development Plans (IDP). The problem of migration to informal settlements in the urban areas was discussed, as was the progress of the Department's occupancy audit of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses.

The Department's presentation on their Comprehensive Plan covered the achievements and challenges realised from the Ten Year Review of the Housing Programme (1994 to 2004), the Comprehensive Plan 2004 interventions, a short summary of the legislation, the departmental research agenda and communication strategy and the Department's report on Work in Progress.

The third presentation dealt with the Human Settlements Planning Overview. This covered the Macro Planning Cycle, the Housing Planning Cycle, Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) and Housing Chapters, Annual Performance Plans (APPs), Multi-Year Housing Development Plans (MHDPs) and the current conjuncture of Human Settlement Planning.

Members expressed concern about prioritisation of informal settlements that put “backyard dwellers” at a disadvantage. The Department was asked for their thoughts on job creation in the near future. The funding of housing projects by municipalities was raised, as was the necessity of an audit of municipalities - to identify those of them that had problems with service delivery. A member raised the possibility of a lack of co-ordination, duplication of functions and wastage of resources related to the Housing Development Agency. Support provided to municipalities was discussed and the question whether they needed additional support from the national department. Displeasure was expressed by the Chairperson at the inclusion of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction (PIE) Amendment legislation in the department’s list of legislation as there was no indication of the timeframes attached to this. The Department was asked to correct this


Minutes

Presentation 1: The background to housing policy and Housing Act
The background to housing policy and Housing Act was presented by Mr Diet Broembsen, Chief Director: Policy Planning. This was discussed under the headings of the introduction, titled "Towards a common understanding of South African human settlements". The White Paper process on a New Housing Policy and Strategy for South Africa was explained as was the Housing Act of 1996 (which was chiefly concerned with phasing out old legislation). Settlement types were explored along the "settlement continuum" - a range from metropolitan settlements to subsistence farming settlements. The Department highlighted the differentiation of settlements by tenure arrangements and typographical settlement patterns for housing policy purposes.
The policy implications highlighted were the constitutional obligation on the state to progressively realise the right to adequate housing within the available means.
The National Housing Programme (NHP) responded to the housing needs of all the settlement types and was continually evolving as the socio-economic environment changed.

Discussion
Mr A Steyn (DA) noted that the presentation had been very informative. He referred to the observation that small towns were often poverty traps and noted that this was interesting as these small town also had land suited to housing. With the aim of integrated development in mind, he asked if the Department had any plans to rejuvenate these areas to create socio-economic opportunities. He noted that this might be a way to reduce migration to the urban areas and get the people who had left, back into the small towns.

Mr Diet Broembsen replied that their Department did not have control over the rejuvenation of small towns. He added that as farmers reduced and roads (transportation) improved, small towns lost their purpose. Consequently populations in these towns had reduced. With so few people in towns, services such as doctors and schools had also left the areas. Some of these small towns had been converted for tourism. A good example of this was Clarens in the Free State.

Mr Mziwonke Dlabantu, Deputy Director General and Chief Financial Officer, pointed to the interpendency between primary and secondary towns. There was provincial development strategy to consolidate the towns and cities within provinces.

Mr Steyn referred to rental housing for seasonal farm workers. He asked if these people would also qualify for a normal housing subsidy when they returned to their home.

Mr Broembsen responded that the people who rented this housing while working on farms could access the housing subsidy when they returned home.

Mr Steyn opined that it was a generally accepted fact that the People's Housing Process (PHP) was a failure. With an emphasis on empowerment, he asked what could be done to fill the gap in housing.

Mr Dlabantu replied that the Department looked at the PHP as a training intervention and noted the increases in the skills level of workers involved in the PHP. However, the training component had the consequence of slowing delivery and also meant that they did not deliver at scale.

Ms M Borman (ANC) enquired about the level of community participation in the Department's programmes; to establish what the community actually needed. She thought this would lead to a better chance of success.

Mr Broembsen replied that there was a policy that provided for community participation. This was done under the control of the Department of Land Affairs to allow planning around people's real needs.

Mr Dlabantu responded that there were developmental nodes where the Department negotiated with the communities and provincial departments on how best to allocate investments.

Ms Borman referred to the massing (concentration in a single area) of settlements and that it was a generally held opinion that this form of settlement was more efficient in terms of infrastructure. She pointed out that a major problem was one of transportation - mainly people commuting to work and back daily. She asked if there was any transport assistance envisaged as part of the plan.

Mr Broembsen replied that the employers usually provided transport for their workers.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) referred to the handing back of property and if a person did do this, if it was possible for that person to obtain a subsidy on another house elsewhere. She clarified that this question was aimed at those who unexpectedly had to move.

Mr Broembsen replied that this was possible in theory. A person could hand back a house in one place and take up a subsidy elsewhere.

Mr B Dhlamini (IFP) asked what the Department’s name change represented in terms of its approach and if there were any new mandates.

Mr Broembsen responded that the name change was an opportunity for them to bring together various functions for the development of sustainable human settlements. The functions necessary to achieve this were currently dispersed throughout government. The co-ordination of these functions was a matter that was currently under discussion.

Mr Dlabantu responded that certain functions would be transferred from other departments to ensure co-ordination in the implementation of their programmes. An important partner in this regard was the Department of Rural Development, as many of the small towns mentioned had a significant rural character.

Mr E Mtshali (ANC) asked if the Department was satisfied with the participation of informal settlements. He asked what was expected of informal settlements in terms of representation to ensure that they have a voice.

Mr Broembsen responded that there was an Informal Settlement Public Participation funding item, calculated per household. The public participation was driven through the local ward councillors and this had, at times, proven problematic. The illegal immigrants living in informal settlements had also had a negative impact on the public participation process as they had a vested interest in the disruption of the public participation process. Municipalities and provinces also lacked the capacity to engage on these issues.

Mr Mtshali pointed out the target of the eradication of informal settlements by 2014 and asked if this was still the case. Related to this, he queried the influence of the Department in the matter of evictions of informal settlement residents.

Mr Broembsen responded that the Department felt that this target, and setting targets in general, was useful. The 2014 target was something they would work toward. Evictions had to take place according to legislation and this was done by the order of the court. The court system also handled alternative housing for the evictees.

Mr Mtshali asked what was meant by the upgrading of informal settlements.

Mr Broembsen responded that they would work with people to improve ownership arrangements, improve services and provided structurally sound housing. Where possible, the Department would endeavour to do that on the land available in the informal settlement.

Mr Mtshali called into question the Department's silence on poorly built houses in government housing projects.

Mr Broembsen replied there was programme in place to refurbish houses. This would take place at the discretion of the MEC. There was also a measure in the pipeline to prevent poorly built houses by means of an inspectorate service.
 
Ms A Mashishi (ANC) noted concern about the size of houses and asked how the Department would address this.

Mr Broembsen responded that in areas where land cost less, they could achieve larger houses. The larger municipalities could also contribute to ensure larger houses.

The Chairperson queried the credibility of the Integrated Development Plans (IDPs). She pointed out that the Department of Human Settlements had a national database of people still in need of housing. There was, however, a lack of results on the ground. She asked the Department for their comments on this in light of the consensus that IDPs could not be relied upon.

Mr Anton Arendse, Director: National Planning, responded that this was generally a government wide comprehensive planning issue. They would have to rethink prioritisation in the creation of human settlements in South Africa. The IDPs were produced mostly as a matter of compliance and not used as a blueprint for implementing development priorities. They hoped that the change in approach would cause a turnaround in this regard.

The Chairperson asked for the Department’s comments on providing housing in rural towns and the problem of migration to informal settlements in the urban areas. What were the Department's plans for the assessment of the needs of these areas? She pointed out that road infrastructure was a problem and the major challenge to this was the delivery of materials.

On the matter of social housing and roads, Mr Broembsen replied that they continued to work with the Department of Rural Development on policy, funding and how the programmes of the two departments would connect.

The Chairperson referred to the occupancy of the RDP houses and suggested that the Department needed to take stock of who actually occupied those houses.

Mr Broembsen replied that an Occupancy Survey was currently underway. This was a combined survey of the actual occupants of the houses and the quality of the houses.

The Chairperson was of the opinion that the issue of farm dwellers/ seasonal workers needed work.

Mr Broembsen responded that the farm dwellers policy could be made available to the members, as it had been approved by MinMEC.

Presentation 2: Comprehensive Plan
Mr Broembsen noted that the presentation covered the achievements and challenges realised from the Ten Year Review of the Housing Programme (1994 to 2004). The focus of the Comprehensive Plan 2004 fell under several areas of interventions:
- creating quality living environments, a needs oriented approach, building a non-racially integrated society,
- unblocking delivery constraints, building capacity and rooting out corruption and mal-administration.

The Committee was given a short summary of the legislation relevant to the human settlement development process which included the Amendments to the Prevention of Illegal Eviction (PIE) Act that were being drawn up by a joint task team with Land Affairs. The departmental research agenda and communication strategy was discussed.

The Department's report on Work in Progress included the work on an Inclusionary Housing Programme and legislation, the development of a Housing Demand Database, the ongoing upgrade of the Housing Subsidy System (HSS) and clarifying the roles, responsibilities and mandates for an appropriate institutional architecture. The Review of the Finance-Linked Subsidy Programme (FLISP) was also mentioned.

Presentation 3: Human Settlements Planning Overview
Mr Arendse gave the presentation on the Human Settlements Planning Overview.

The Macro Planning Cycle was described as a top-down approach consequent to the electoral process. It depended on the priorities detailed in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Annual Performance Plans (APPs). The Macro Planning Cycle ran for the five-year electoral term with five annual reviews.

The Housing Planning Cycle focused on the demand for housing from the ground up, and was captured in the IDPs of individual municipalities, which were composed of sectoral plans.

The Fiscal Planning Cycle was discussed as an additional part of the planning landscape and this aspect juxtaposed the macro planning cycle and the housing planning cycle. It detailed how these two plans inform on and interact with each other.

The Committee was also briefed on the substantive issues around the Housing Chapters of the IDP and Multi-Year Housing Development Plans. The current conjuncture of human settlement planning was described as lack of alignment of provincial multi-year housing delivery plans with approved IDPs, and non-alignment of financial streams to housing, social facilities and infrastructure. There was a lack of comprehensive planning within IDPs and a lack of meaningful provincial and national Housing Development Plans. This was of concern, as these plans should form the basis for accurate targeting and budget allocations. The way forward was encompassed in work towards having practical documents that can be used as reference planning documents for provinces. There was a need to work towards achievement of Multi-Year Housing Development Plans (MHDPs) that are aligned with the national, provincial and municipal priorities. This was in addition to a need for urgent sector support and proactive engagement with provinces, municipalities and service providers on the development of municipal sector plans

Discussion
Ms Borman referred to the problem of “backyard dwellers”. These people often faced the situation where the homeowners decided to sell the property, leaving them destitute. She noted the sentiment expressed by “backyard dwellers” that they would be better off in informal settlements as they would then be eligible for the housing waiting lists.

Mr Dlabantu responded that this position was caused by the prioritisation of people in informal settlements. The error made was realised during a number of housing projects, most notably the N2 Gateway Project. They had learned that the Department had to make provision for these people within the land and cost constraints. He added that the matter would be researched and included in the planning of the programme.

Ms Borman referred to the comments made by the President in the State of the Nation Address on job creation and asked for the Department's thoughts on job creation up to December, leading to 2014.

Mr Dlabantu replied the Department did have a formula to calculate job creation. This formula was benchmarked with the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP). These figures could be made available to members at the briefing on the budget and strategic plan.

Ms Borman raised the issue of the funding of housing projects by municipalities and pointed out that certain municipalities did deliver housing. She specifically mentioned Ethikweni in this regard. She noted that the five-year plan depended on the funding coming through to the municipalities and asked the Department to comment on this observation.

Mr Dlabantu responded that this was dilemma of demand versus resources. It presented the challenge of sourcing non-traditional funding methods.

Ms Borman asked if the Department had engaged in an audit of municipalities to identify the municipalities that had problems with service delivery and if Parliament could assist with this.

Mr Dlabantu replied that the Department had not recently done an audit. They had used a South African Local Government Association (SALGA) assessment as presented to MinMEC. This was a thorough assessment of municipalities. He offered to go through an analysis of this information with the Committee at a later date.

Mr Steyn pointed to the possibility of a lack of co-ordination. He referred specifically to the duplication of functions between bodies like the Housing Development Agency (HDA) and the Planning Commission in the Presidency. He added to this a concern about possible wastage of resources.

Mr Arendse replied that the HDA did not have a planning function - its mandate was to facilitate the process of making land available for human settlements. The HDA took its lead in terms of planning from the municipal IDPs. This position was reflected in the HDA's founding documents and legislation. The planning responsibility still resided with government.

Mr Steyn noted that the IDPs were a sore point. If this information was inaccurate and lacking in integrity, this explained the failure if this was the information on which the Department based its planning on.

Mr Arendse replied that IDP was a work in progress. Enhancing it would require a dedicated effort and a more hands on approach. Municipalities have noted that they would like to see more constructive engagement by the provincial departments in crafting the IDPs.

Mr Steyn referred to the support provided to municipalities. When a municipality was accredited, did it follow that they also had the capacity to implement the IDP? He asked if they would need additional support from the national department.

Mr Dlabantu replied that the outcome of the SALGA analysis was that rather than looking at the municipalities that were unable to provide housing - they should change the approach in favour of determining how many were capable of delivering housing. There were only a few municipalities that had the capacity to deliver. The creation of capacity had various stages and national and provincial government would be involved at each stage. Municipalities would be subjected to provincial oversight. He added that national, provincial and local government policy must not be inconsistent with one another.

Mr Arendse replied that IDP was a work in progress. Enhancing it would require a dedicated effort and a more hands-on approach. Municipalities have noted that they would like to see more constructive engagement by the provincial departments in crafting the IDPs.

The Chairperson responded that some of the issues raised by Ms Borman would be covered by the briefing on the budget and strategic plan of the Department of Human Settlements.
 
The Chairperson queried the slide on legislation still in the pipeline and was not pleased with the inclusion of the Prevention of Illegal Evictions (PIE) legislation. There was no indication of the timeframes attached to this and requested that this be corrected.

Mr Dlabantu replied that the PIE discussions had been moved out of the pipeline. Despite the sentiment expressed by the Chairperson, certain matters still needed to be resolved.

The meeting was adjourned.