The Estate Agency Affairs Board and the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) , in the presence also of the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, gave a presentation on the work of the agency in response to a number of issues raised at a previous meeting in relation to difficulties with housing lists, allocations, title deeds, double-dipping, corruption and the roles of municipalities and provinces. There was a substantial backlog, from both pre- and post-1994. The DHS realised the need for legislation and policies and guidelines to ensure that those who were allocated houses had been chosen on the basis of the correct lists and criteria, that special needs were catered for, that title deeds were provided. There was also the need to run public education and awareness campaigns to make it clear that those given houses were supposed to stay in them, not immediately rent out or sell and move to another province to try to claim again, and the value of title deeds must be clearly outlined so that purchasers would insist upon them, which in turn would obviate the situation where the same house was resold by the original owners to several people. The economic consequences of proper registration and titles were also outlined. It was also to be made clear that there was a distinction between being registered on the Needs Register to receive shelter, and on the housing subsidy list. The budget vote of the DHS in 2014 had a substantial amount allocated to addressing the backlog, and was working with the EAAB and others to make sure that this was done. Figures were quoted to illustrate what had happened to the 1.44 million beneficiary houses, and it was indicated that this was still work in progress and more information was still being gathered in all provinces to ensure that cadastral surveys and registers were correct and up to date. Information would also allow municipalities to effectively manage land use, installation and maintenance of services and amenities, and maintain a rates base. The DHS described what its current project covered, including the IT applications, and the type of information that could be produced. It was aware of the need to ensure that enough resources were available in terms of both staff and money. Connectivity would be vital In addition to the internal training and monitoring, DHS was working closely with municipalities and provinces to assess their staff capacity needs, and support with training, guidelines, questionnaires and application processes. At all levels, input had been sought from the public and the DHS mentioned several times the need to have good communication campaigns to ensure that the right information was being conveyed and that people understood the processes. .
The Committee asked whether the department would be taking into consideration the needs of the elderly as well as people living with disabilities. They highlighted that although the policies seemed good on paper, the Department and its partners needed to ensure that the implementation processes was smooth, transparent and audited. They stressed the need to address the peculiarities of different provinces, particularly asking for input around Ingonyama Trust Land, the status of the Permission to Occupy, whether title deeds were available and whether a person who was entitled to live on Trust Land would be excluded from assistance from the DHS when moving to town to get a job, yet not able to afford rental close to work.
Chairperson's opening remarks
The Chairperson noted that this meeting had resulted form a suggestion in 2014 that the Department of Human Settlements (DHS or the Department), the University of the Western Cape and other entities be invited to brief the Committee on concerns around the waiting list and title deeds backlog.
The Chairperson shared her concern that the Minister and Deputy Minister of Human Settlements were not present in the meeting. It was important that politicians interact so as to assist the Committee in the small number of meetings that took place. She asked that the Director General convey her sentiments to the Minister. This year, the Committee was intending to have a stricter approach and would appreciate the Minister's assistance also.
Others present at the meeting then amplified that the meetings had taken place at the University of the Western Cape, when concerns were stated on the backlog with title deeds, jumping of housing queues, allocation of houses for political reasons rather than assessing the needs of community members, with the result that some were getting favours, particularly from local government and local municipalities. The Committee would have to address all these issues. Two of the Parliamentary Legal Advisers were unable to write a specific brief because they were tied up in the Klein Karoo issues. The main problem that needed to be addressed urgently was the waiting list and problems with the councils and officials. The Department was now ready to establish a national register and could explain how that would link to a national waiting list.
The Chairperson said that the issues that were being raised were very important. The meeting was slightly delayed to wait until all members of the delegation from the Department of Human Settlements could be present, after discussion on whether this should be done.
When the full delegation was present, she gave a short introduction. The Committee on Social Services recognised that the Department had really done well in delivering more than 3 million houses, a task that was definitely not "child's play". The media had conceded that South Africa was the only country in the world that provided free housing, and it was noted that there had been improvements in terms of the quality of houses and the size. In projects like this, there was no prior experience and certain challenges could be expected, that must be immediately dealt with.
She noted that the meeting wanted to address the waiting list. Some people had been on the waiting list since 1994, and the Committee, without wanting to accuse the DHS, wanted to know how the issue was to be handled, as there was apparently no other benchmark, and the backlog was increasing. Three million houses had been built, but the question was how many more were needed. Other questions related to whether deserving people had houses, or whether they had stolen them by jumping queues, how the Department dealt with the conflicts and pressures, and how the realities could be balanced so that nobody was left out. Another issue was how to deal with people who were illegally occupying houses. There was corruption, but officials would only be corrupt if the people were also. Finally, the meeting wanted to consider people receiving houses but not Title Deeds, sometimes because those deeds were with officials, municipalities, or contractors.
Allocation of housing, waiting lists, title deeds: Estate Agency Affairs Board and Department of Human Settlements briefing
Mr Anton Arendse, Business Operations Executive, Estate Agency Affairs Board, noted that his entity was in charge of dealing with title deeds and the housing projects.
Mr Thabane Zulu, Director General, Department of Human Settlements, expressed his appreciation that these important and sensitive matters would be covered. He noted that some of his delegation could not attend this meeting because they were at a simultaneous meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements. The Minister was in another meeting, with other Departmental members. The Deputy Minister would be attending, although she was presently in another meeting.
He confirmed that the DHS and Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) were working together on the issue of title deed restoration.
Mr Bryan Chaplog, Chief Executive Officer, EAAB, said that the ANC Manifesto of 2014 spoke about decreasing the backlog of title deeds, and the EAAB and DHS wanted to prioritise this in respect of both the pre- and post-1994 stock, Particularly in the past 20 years, 3.8 million houses had been built. 1.4 million people in the RDP market had not received their deeds, according to information dating from 2011. About 91 000 people (around 6% of those receiving houses) who had received their deeds also had changed the ownership, raising revenue of R12 billion. During 1994 to 2000 there had been substantial changes in the banking sector, and average sales prices in 1994-2000 were R54 000 and in 2000-2009 were R51 000, with this amount also since increasing. Studies had been done into how to put value on to title deeds, and encouraging people to hold on to their assets. There had been some great work done by DHS to encourage people not to sell their properties without due consideration, and they were informed how to create value out of the debt capital. There was a need to compare the sectors and find out where most of the formalised market transactions were happening, but it should be a poverty alleviator and create wealth and employment. The key message was "Property should be owned and not sold"
The presentation showed a lot of activity, and the DHS and EAAB were covering all areas and trying to identify the nature of the problems. He noted that Limpopo looked as if it was dragging behind, but there had been a lot of investment in chiefdom land. DHS tried to look at the interactions taking place from 1995-2009, to see the the number of units given, where there were changes, what kind of movement of property were happening in each province. Some buyers did not get title deeds, and they also ended up renting to backyard dwellers, also without documents. Some people were selling their houses - provided by government at a cost of around R110 000 - for figures such as R51 000, not realising that the ultimate loss was that they no longer had the benefit of owning property.
The DHS and EAAB were aware of the difficulties in chiefdom of people not owning their own land. It was necessary to know what the subsidies were being used for, and the nature and extent of the problem, including how many units of housing were freed up in each province, who had deeds, and who did not, and what the challenges were in the delivery process. The question was also whether the municipalities had capacity to deal with these issues and what support they needed, what the reasons were that municipalities would not want to ensure that beneficiaries received land and deeds, whether they were concerned about who was buying the land and worried about the value of the area, should the land be sold to certain people. The major question was the impact and capacity need to deal with the backlog. There were some instances where houses had been built, but there was a failure in the planning, and other issues that the municipality could not deal with. The DHS wanted to avoid the situation where it might have a repeat of these issues, in regard to the next batch of housing. It wanted to finalise policies, and create institutional capacity. The project had already achieved quite a lot but there was more work to be done.
DHS, having done exercises in the provinces and seen how far they were with the pre-1994 stock, had some idea of the processes to follow. In terms of reporting, there had been responses to questions from the MECs and the Minister and Deputy Minister. A national steering committee would be dealing with some of the technicalities and would be confirming the backlog numbers in each province with the .key stakeholders. Committees were in place and had partnered with other organisations. Another factor to be taken into consideration was criminal activity. The numbers must be confirmed to ensure that the issues were correctly solved, including instances where beneficiaries might have occupied for years without the deeds process being finalised, and lawful occupiers. Project management was needed also to deal with local government.
Ms Christelle van der Westhuizen, Director: Integrated Business Solutions, DHS, gave an overview of the National Needs Register and Allocations Guidelines. In 2008, the previous Minister started with a process that would have the housing allocations done well and in line with guidelines. There was a new IT system, with a focus on fairness and transparency of audit, and it was recognised that the beneficiaries and all others had to have confidence in the process. Minister Sexwale had requested the development of the National Housing Needs Register (the Register) which sought to enable citizens to register their specific need to have adequate shelter. The Register allowed for the municipality to have information and put it on a database, about the citizens’ profile, which included knowing how many people were in the house, the ages of the children, and their income. The Register was launched in 2010, although its functionality had been tweaked, including now allowing people to register for online use, and have all contact details recorded for SMS messages to inform about allocations.
The Department made sure it consulted with the provinces and municipalities, based on what it gathered from the people. It had a questionnaire that would assist to engage with all the other people, and understand some things that the census could not give. It had incorporated information from the current waiting lists and municipality information. In relation to IT, it had worked with business and made sure also that those citizens knew what the difference was around the subsidy and the needs Register. In Gauteng, currently, there was a demand data base whose information had been transferred on to the national Register, and good work was being done also in other provinces. The DHS trained and assisted where it could, got data from municipalities, made reports and entries to the Register.
There is a big role for business, to come and partner with the Department. There was a need for a communications plan because citizens needed to know what was happening, to avoid any confusion between registering for the need to have adequate shelter and registering to receive a housing subsidy. In a municipality, there needed to be someone to ensure data capturing, working with the municipality as well as providing full information to citizens and assuring them how their information would be handled. The DHS trained people and assisted municipalities with implementation and capacity needs. It maintained allocation guidelines, IT resources and the connection to the IT services, in order that it was fully apprised of needs, wants and public thought. In the short term, DHS would ensure that people received houses in a transparent and non-corrupt way and reduce the backlog. IT would ensure a smart Register. It also ensured that municipalities knew the allocation guidelines and would stick to them. In the longer term, this would all give the DHS and government a better understanding of the country's backlog issue, and allow DHS to plan and budget properly, knowing the household. .
DHS wanted to look at human settlement delivery processes. In most provinces housing needs sat under beneficiary management, with integrated processes. Needs assessments were done at ward level. The website was clear and usable, giving all the household information, numbers in the provinces, and the needs, prior to any spending. Scanning was done to check if the person was alive, where they worked and if receiving another subsidy. After assessing that, the guideline would be used to see how allocations could be done, handled by an allocation committee. Their decision was conveyed to the project manager, who would then approach the household and complete subsidy forms. Priorities were identified. A person who registered on the Needs Register did not automatically qualify for a subsidy; this applied to some programmes but not all. Role players were the Allocation Committee, provincial Departments of Human Settlement, the municipalities, the national Department, project managers and external auditors. The committee must include two members of the Office of the City Managers, two members of the provincial department and the Chair was from the Mayor's Office.
Ms Zou Kota, Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, added her appreciation for the opportunity for the Department to address the Committee. Deeds were the formal confirmation of ownership, through which people could pass on their property to their children. The Register was intended to provide a full spectrum of information on when people applied, how long they had been on the waiting list, and why some had received priority allocations.
Mr M Khawula (IFP, KZN) wondered if the housing register might have an impact on the time that the housing units took to be delivered. If bulk housing was created in a ward, then people moved, this might discourage onward sales, and he also asked about increases of unit prices. He was pleased to hear of linkages between departments and the database and wondered if the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) might also be able to tap into this information to minimise corruption in its area. He agreed with the EAAB that the position was complex in KZN, in rural areas where there were no deeds, but there were Permissions to Occupy (PTOs) and he asked for some context to be put around those, and whether holders of such PTOs were disadvantaged.
Another Members asked whether, in allocation of the RDP houses, there was any collaboration with the Department of Social Development (DSD), and asked how, particularly, those with disabilities or who were elderly were attended to. Some houses were specifically equipped for those with disabilities, but they mainly referred to physical disabilities and id not cater for the blind and deaf, contract to South Africa's obligations under international conventions. She asked how the DHS was dealing with foreigners buying land.
Ms L Zwane (ANC, KZN) found the presentations informative, and wished the Committee had more time to engage on these issues. There were apparently different categories in the Needs Register,but those were not outlined in the presentation, and she enquired about the position in regard to domestic workers who were not living in, but were paid insufficient wages to be able to rent, and ended up in informal housing. She thought that the DHS definitely needed to address and solve the problems of high rentals charged by private landlords. In relation to military veterans, there was also a need to find 500 000 houses. She pointed out that some people allocated houses would move to another province, rent out their original property, and the way was opened for exploitation. She wondered if there were a limited number of deeds that any one person could hold.
Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo) spoke in an indigenous language and said that her concern was that although the policy seemed good and clear, there was a problem with monitoring. Many of the houses built in the rural areas were not being occupied by the persons to whom they were allocated, but by elderly grandparents. People who were perfectly well capable of buying houses on their own were being allocated houses, or were appearing more than once on the lists. The DHS had to ensure that houses were actually being given to the correct people - and that would not include civil servants who no qualified, although they may have been on the lists for a while. She said that the main problems were how to monitor implementation, and how to monitor agencies building houses at the time of handover. She suggested that the DHS must compile databases from follow up visits as to whether houses were occupied by owners, or rented out.
The Chairperson said that pressure of time limited full engagement and the matter would be dealt with again. This was a sensitive matter. Parliament and the government had to get it right, otherwise the people would lose faith in their ability to do things properly. It was clear that current leadership was trying to do the right thing. However, the question was whether the good policies were working on the ground; there were some instances in which the same house was sold several times, or occupied illegally, or four dwellings were built in one backyard. The DHS would have to investigate everything in every province. When allocating money to provinces, it should be clear how the Needs Register would be used, and how many people would be assisted, to avoid a situation where the municipality might identify people separately, without following the proper process or disregarding the waiting list and Register.
She thought the comment on the deeds in rural areas, and the inability to afford rental, were difficult issues. DHS might find itself in conflict with the chiefs. Another problem was that the provinces, the implementing bodies, were not at this meeting to specify where the monitoring actually was. There was a need to fast track the pre-1994 backlog and the transfer of ownership, and she said that there was a need to move fast to implementation instead of planning, as people did not understand why government was still planning. There was far too long being taken to produce emergency housing - some people in Khayelitsha were already due to move in 2013, but were still in the same place, with ten families sharing one toilet. This had to change. When the provinces were allocated money, they must remove those given the allocations from the lists - so clear guidelines were needed. She was not expecting a response today on all issues but was asking that the DHS think seriously about the issues raised.
The Deputy Minister wanted to start by commenting on the needs for the elderly, who should be considered up front, before allocating houses to younger people. In regard to the disabled, there was a subsidy and when an application was made for inclusion on the database, this should indicate what disability people had. The DHS had been awarding houses to people with disabilities. The database should be able to isolate and avoid instances of "double-dipping", as far as possible although there were instances of corruption and ways to cheat the system. In regard to military veterans, the President did mention provision of houses for military veterans, and the Deputy Director General was taking care of the project, where veterans were given assistance to build their own houses as a form of job creation in all provinces.
It was difficult to monitor the housing allocations. The subsidy was intended for those earning between R0-R3 500 a month. However, the DHS did need to address the issues and would follow up.
Administration was also a key issue to consider around all the databases. In Mpumulanga special attention was being paid to title deeds with full details. After the fires in Khayelitsha in 2012, the Mayor and departments, provincial and national, went in and agreed a plan to move people to Kusasa, but in the process the plan was not fully realised. Cross-province movement was difficult - in Du Noon there were numerous people - some of whom were house owners elsewhere - flocking in. The DHS needed to increase its rental stock to make sure that people could go back to their provinces. Those who deliberately abandoned their own houses to move to shacks should have action taken.
Mr Zulu thanked the Committee and Chairperson for the information provided, which would help the DHS to tighten its policies. It would make sure that all government agencies worked together, particularly on corruption. DHS had a broad mandate, not just to do with housing, and some people who received housing were also not economically viable in their lifestyles which explained why they would sell the same house over and over to different people. This was not excusable but the circumstances were understandable. Part of the DHS approach was to ensure that it would not try to place people in areas that were not economically viable, because they would want to move. In every housing project, there needed to be elements of economic activity.
He confirmed that there were always gaps, and understood the concerns about private landowners and the problems that domestic workers faced. The DHS was trying to make sure that everyone in society was taken care of, that people -both the public and the officials - were educated to understand which category they fell into.
Mr Zulu confirmed that the PTOs were supposed to be a temporary measure, but would be resolved. Temporary solutions must not be allowed to become permanent, and the DHS had intervention strategies to deal with people not using the same measures of delivery.
Mr Arendse also confirmed that there were challenges around the Ingonyama Trust Land. Although land could be passed on, there were certain ways and legal procedures to follow. The Department needed to be kept informed. DHS and EAAB were working with conveyancers to expose issues where title deeds had been tampered with.
Ms Zwane emphasised that the problem with many domestic workers was that they lived within the Trust, and as long as they did that, they could benefit. However, if they had to leave their home to find work in the city, and could not live in with their employer, they now had to find accommodation and they were in limbo, not being able to afford to rent. She asked how DHS would place them.
The Chairperson said that during a recent Human Settlements Indaba the Minister said that if there was accommodation available, it should be compulsory to allow the worker to live in.
The meeting was adjourned.
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