Executive Leadership & Management Programme in Sustainable Human Settlement: University Stellenbosch briefing; SA Local Government Association on draft Backyard Rental Strategy

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation

02 June 2015
Chairperson: Ms N Mafu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The University of Stellenbosch briefed the Committee on the Executive Leadership and Management Programme in Sustainable Human Settlement Development, which was a postgraduate Diploma with 12 SAQA credits. Members of the Committee would be starting the course in the last week of recess. Focus areas were sustainable development, public management, environmental management and public value as a cross-cutting issue. Public value was defined as the value that an organisation contributed to society, which related to the rights, benefits and prerogatives to which a citizen should be entitled, the obligations of the citizens to society, the state and one another and the principles on which government and policies should be based. The aims and objectives of the diploma programme were outlined, and it was emphasised that the University, by offering the diploma, aimed to build a strong, principled, committed, critical, dedicated and professional community of housing officials, practitioners, researchers and scholars. It could be taken by completing 12 modules over three years, or combining 10 modules with a mini-thesis. Each module was done on block release, with approximately 40 hours contact sessions. Those participants who did not have an undergraduate degree could do a bridging course in public administration and research methodology. The course structure, marking and evaluation were outlined.

The Committee was joined by the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs for the briefing from the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), setting out a draft strategy and policy for backyard rental dwellers and the local government response to various positions. A background research paper had been compiled by consultants in March 2013, with 14 local and four international case studies and this had influenced the SALGA position. It was noted that 1.25 million Households (representing 8.7% of all households) lived in backyarding units or second dwelling units. 25% of all households now rented and 43% of all backyard structures were formally constructed. Backyarding was defined as generally a small scale activity, produced on privately owned and privately held or controlled land, procured and managed by private individuals, and generally occupied by separate households or extended family members for residential habitation. Types of units included room share, shacks, rooms, units, self-contained second-dwelling units, small scale tenements and commercial and retail spaces. Backyarding met the needs of households who were unable or unwilling to access formal accommodation. The two factors motivating landlords are profit/additional income and social reasons.
A summary was given of the existing municipal responses, ranging from doing nothing and leaving market forces of supply and demand to govern the position, to taking a zero tolerance approach to any unapproved structures. Building control might allow development of conventionally constructed approved backyard structures with access to minimum standards of services, whilst service improvements, such as installing additional separate connections, shared ablution, prepaid electricity and refuse removal, could be done for municipal rental stock. In some areas, municipalities were upgrading structures and services, de-densifying and dealing with health and safety issues. In others, they were using zoning tools and second-dwelling unit policies or incorporating backyard rental units in greenfields development.

Local government had challenges in that many structures were currently illegal and contravened municipal by-laws or did not comply with norms and standards, including health issues and access to services. There was potential to over-burden existing infrastructure. Double subsidies were another challenge and there could be negative outcomes of displacements. Overall the new policy proposed intended to slow the growth of backyard units and improve the quality of accommodation for existing tenants, without formalising or over-regulating the sector. GIven that backyard dwellings were a phenomenon all over the world and would not be eradicated, SALGA urged municipalities to pro-actively engage with it as a critical and useful delivery submarket for households not catered for elsewhere, see it a sub-marked to play a positive role in city buidling and sustainable human settlements and understand that no single intervention was appropriate for all, but that limited regulations were desirable. Indirect interventions that created incentives to landlords to improve conditions of living would be useful.

Members expressed concern over the propensity to create over-dense settlements, and suggested that perhaps other options such as social housing and other rental options must be considered. One Member pointed out that some people had never qualified for subsidy houses and would be living in backyards for years to come, but another felt that this should not necessarily be encouraged, while another suggested that whenever houses were constructed, additional foundations should be laid with restrictions on the size of dwelling that could be added. The issue of people using a government subsidy to build a dwelling on land owned by another person needed to be looked into. It was suggested that the two committees should undertake oversight visits and that the Departments should be asked to give thir response to the paper.

Meeting report

Executive Leadership and Management Course in Human Settlements: Stellenbosch University briefing

Prof Johan Burger, Director: School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University, commented that Stellenbosch University School of Public Leadership (the School) was the biggest school in public value training in South Africa. He added that there were three programmes under the school, which were Public Management, Sustainable Development and Environmental management. In the last few years the School had developed a number of applied focused postgraduate and undergraduate products to give broader access. Both he and Dr Khan had done their PhDs in the field of human settlements and were very enthusiastic about it.

Dr Firoz Khan, Academic Service Provider, Stellenbosch University, briefed the Committee on the Executive Leadership and Management Programme (ELMP) in Sustainable Human Settlement Development, a post graduate Diploma with a12 Credit SAQA Level 8 (Honours) accreditation.The focus areas were on Sustainable Development, Public Management, and Environmental Management with Public value at the intersection of the three.

Public value was defined as the value that an organisation contributed to the society and these related to the rights, benefits and prerogatives to which a citizen should be entitled, the obligations of the citizens to society, the state and one another and the principles on which government and policies should be based.

The Executive course was a pilot or foundational course drawn from three modules of formal programmes. The work-based diagonal qualification route comprised of short courses which explained the transition from Diploma to Advanced Diploma.

He noted the various accreditations - saying that the Executive Leadership and Management Programme (ELMP) post graduate diploma PG Dip) was produced with Department of Human Settlements, SPL and senior staff from the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics (SAPG-University of Cape Town). SPL delivers in a partnership with senior staff of UCT’s SAPG. It was an immediate response to the need to professionalise individual modules that constituted the ELMP and that were accredited at SAQA level 8. These modules would be collectively packaged and presented to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) as a Postgraduate Diploma, with a three-year delivery period. Conversion to the PG Dip was subject to the outcome of successful negotiations between the various institutions. During the negotiations, which were being conducted in parallel with the already-accredited courses, the participants would be registered as special students of the University, with similar rights and privileges as other PG students.

The Diploma's aims and objectives were : to furnish with practical strategies, techniques and tools; effectively regulate, direct and target public and private investment in the built environment; improve inter-governmental coordination and alignment so as to enhance the effectiveness and performance of pro-poor shelter delivery; calibrate and package subsidy instruments that were responsive to changing household relations, labor market dynamics, survival and livelihood strategies; improve the political influence of the poor and their representatives and officials through enhancing the leverage of the working and marginalised communities via institutionally tilting decision making power in their favor; to build a strong, principled, committed, critical, dedicated and professional community of housing officials, practitioners, researchers and scholars.

It was a three year Diploma with a total of 12 modules with 10 credits each (120 credits). Participants had the choice of completing 4 modules per year over three years or reading for 10 modules (100 credits) and writing a mini-thesis worth 20 credits. Each module was done by way of block release: for 5.5 days, with

approximately 40 hours contact sessions (class work and a mini-project). Special provision was made for participants who did not have an undergraduate degree, to read for these modules via a bridging course in public administration and research methodology.

On Assessment/Evaluation, he noted that the course was divided into four linked components of :
- Reading and self-managed work time
- Forty hours of classroom work and submission of a short written assignment
- Practical Group project
- Individual written assignment.

Participants would be evaluated. The class mark counted for 10%, determined by daily attendance, participation in discussions, preparation for presentations and submission of the short written assignment (based on reading and case study). The individual written assignment counted for 65% and the practical group counted for 25%. Participants who successfully completed the short written assignments and practical group project would exit with a Certificate of Attendance. Those who completed the short written assignment, practical group assignment and the individual written assignment would receive the full 10 credits.

The purpose of the short assignment was to test participants' grasp, understanding and comprehension of the themes, issues and discussions during the contact week.

He noted that the short courses run throughout the year. It  was suggested that if Parliament could give a working schedule, it would be possible to arrange a guarantee of delivery to 25 participants per module,  with admission requirements having been met. The university could then assemble service providers, with at least a four month notice period invoice issued, and payment within 45 days of date of issue.

Prof Burger commented that the School was subject to the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and South AFrican Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act. He emphasized that one could enter into a Post Graduate Diploma with a degree, which was the standard practice for admission. However, the non-standard option for someone with a qualification of level six (diploma) was to enter for a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) as one could not jump from a School Leaving Certificate to this programme. In the absence of any qualifications, the programme would take longer. According to the NQF, the progression from short courses into diploma was 50% of any qualification. He added that students were sometimes scared of assessments, but it was the school’s responsibility to ensure that participants were at a level where they could comply with the assessments.

Mr B Bayee, Director: Professional Projects: Stellenbosch University, remarked that the intention of the Department was to create a laboratory for learning and professional actions. The qualification was co-constructed by the Department and approved by the Director General in terms of the content and budget. The issue of payment was left to the Department. It should not be that participants would need to fund the programme from their own pockets. The School expected the participants to complete the course and attend classes.

He commended the team for sequencing the modules, particularly the Foundation Module which was the Housing Policy module which could be run almost immediately. There were sequences of modules beyond the Foundation module, like Assess, which were preparatory modules that were critical and would allow Committee Members come up with a standard to be able to perform and meet the requirements of the qualification. He added that it was possible to finish earlier, in two years, though a three year programme was possible if Members could do four modules concurrently in the first and second year as assignments could grow out of the first year. He encouraged Members not to be intimidated by the three year duration as long assignments could grow out of short written assignments, class assignments and could evolve from year one to year two and urged them not to postpone their thesis to the end .The course was structured into self-study, context, pure group learning, and written assignments as it was a mixed mode of learning, not only the traditional lecture type. He said the team was excited about the programme and would like to start with the Committee by the end of June or early July.

The Chairperson commented that the course had been outlined as four modules per year, 12 in total, and two per semester. However, the first semester had already finished, so the Committee was already behind. She said the Committee required a week for each module and could start anytime from now. She said Parliament was going on recess from 26 June till 20 July and urged Members to sacrifice a week in order to start the programme. She suggested that they start in the last week of recess, so as to enable Members to attend to other commitments. She said they would work in a group and support one another.

Ms V Bam-Mugwanya (ANC) asked what the attitude of the Chief Whip’s office would be if the Members were to do the programme concurrently with their Parliamentary work in the first week of the Parliamentary programme.

The Chairperson replied that it was not practical to start the programme in the first week of the Parliamentary term. Parliament had its own schedule that could not be taken away, which was why she had suggested the last week of recess.

Mr N Capa (ANC) asked if the 25 participants required to participate in the programme were all Portfolio Committee members.

The Chairperson replied that officials from the Department were included and had been registered for the programme.

Ms L Mnganga-Gcabashe (ANC) commented that the Committee did not have much time as it had missed the first semester and proposed formally that it begin in the last week of recess.

Mr S Gana (DA) commented that he had personal commitments as he was doing his Honours and Masters, so he had less interest in the programme.

The Chairperson commented that the tentative dates would be 13-18 July, for the first block week, and confirmation would be given before the Committee went on recess.

Dr Khan commented that Monday to Thursday would be full days, while Friday would be a half day in order for the members to travel early.

Ms Bam-Mugwanya asked if the Committee could take accommodation at the nearest hotels where the Department would cover the costs.

The Chairperson added that transportation would be arranged to convey members to and from Parliament and the School.

Mr K Sithole (IFP) commented that he had lots of mandated work by the Party and would have to consult with his party first.

The Chairperson replied that he should consult with his party, but the programme would enhance his personal growth.

Draft Backyard Rental Strategy: SA Local Government Association briefing
The Chairperson noted that the meeting was now joined by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Mr M Mdakane (ANC), and Members of that Committee, because the presentation by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) impacted on cooperative governance matters. She commented that when dealing with the Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan, the issue of backyard dwellers kept coming up, and the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) had noted that SALGA had developed a draft Backyard Dweller Rental Strategy, which SALGA was now being asked to present.

Mr Johan Rademeyer, Councillor and member of SALGA, commented that it was very important to discuss this very important issue, which caused him sleepless nights when he considered how children might be spending the night cold, wet and hungry. How to correct this was one of the biggest challenges of the country. He was glad that two Committees were present to think together on the way forward. He was also glad that Ms Alison Tshangana (a specialist for Human Settlements Minister) was present to hear SALGA's input. It was important to share information on best practices that worked and avoid re-inventing things that did not work at all.

Ms Alison Tshangana, Specialist: Human Settlements, SALGA, noted that a background research paper by consultants on background rentals was completed March 2013 and included 14 South African case studies and 4 international case studies on how government had approached the issue of backyard dwellings, which served as the evidence and analysis base for this SALGA position.

1.25 million households, or 8.7% of all households, now lived in backyard units or second dwelling units, according to Census 2011. 25% of all households now rented and 43% of all backyard structures were formally constructed.

The core defining elements of backyarding were generally a small scale activity, produced on privately owned and privately held or controlled land. The building or stock would be procured and managed by private individuals. It was generally occupied by separate households or extended family members and predominantly utilized for residential habitation.

The variety of forms or types of backyard units were described as  room sharing, backyard shacks, backyard rooms, backyard units, self-contained second dwelling units, small-scale tenements and commercial and retail spaces.

Backyarding met the needs of households who were unable or unwilling to access formal accommodation. The two factors motivating landlords were profit/additional income and social reasons.

Ms Tshangana summarised the existing municipal responses that had been found:
- The "laissez-faire" approach was to simply not attempt to control this, leaving market forces of supply and demand to determine the prevalence, number, type and occupancy of backyard structures
- Disallowing illegal structures. However, a zero tolerance approach to unapproved structures in all areas may lead to higher rentals
- Building control: only allows development of conventionally constructed approved backyard structures with access to minimum standards of services
- Service improvement for municipal stock: install additional separate connections, shared ablutions, prepaid electricity connections and refuse removal
- Upgrading of structures and services in informal areas to de-densify areas to reasonable densities, to overcome health and safety concerns, investing in infrastructure upgrades and connections, and regularizing ownership and rental arrangements
- Active encouragement through zoning tools, implementing blanket second dwelling unit policies on a city-wide basis. This could lead to relaxed building lines, increased densities, relaxed building norms and standards
- Inclusion in greenfields development, to include backyarding units for rental by beneficiaries in the primary designs of new developments

Ms Tshangana set out the reasons that the local government may see these arrangements as problematic. Many structures were illegal and contravened municipal by-laws and/or did not comply with the norms and standard set out in national building regulations. Backyard accommodation may be unsafe and unhealthy due to too many units on a plot, poorly constructed informal dwellings and insufficient space. Backyarder tenants may not have access to adequate basic services, and there was potential overburdening of existing infrastructure. Finally, backyarding was responded to as a negative urban and housing process.

Additional problems encountered by municipalities when designing and implementing interventions into backyard rental included lack of specific policy or funding frameworks, double subsidies to select beneficiaries, possible unintended negative outcomes of displacement, and lack of municipal institutional capacity and resources for enforcement.

She noted that backyarding was not unique to SA and would always exist to some extent, as part of migration and urbanisation process. In South Africa it was also a unique part of the historical legacy of apartheid.

The growth of backyarding over the last few years was also a result of the government-subsidised housing polic, which had failed to significantly shift these spatial patterns in cities and had also inadequately addressed the needs of dwellers who did not qualify for subsidies or for whom the available housing options were not in line with their needs.

Backyard dwellings would never be fully eradicated but would continue to play a limited and managed role in providing access to our cities. Recognising that, the aim of local government was rather to slow the growth of backyard units and to improve the quality of accommodation for existing tenants, without formalising or over-regulating the sector. In order to address the potentially negative outcomes, it was felt that municipalities should pro-actively engage with backyarding as a critical and useful housing delivery submarket for households not catered for elsewhere.

Backyarding was a multi-million rand sub-market of rental sector which could play a positive role in city building and the development of sustainable human settlements. For this reason, the economic potential and social function in backyarding must be supported. Since backyarding was a complex and highly differentiated accommodation sub-market, no single intervention was appropriate for all areas where backyarders resided. She suggested that limited regulations were required and a double subsidy from government was acceptable only in some situations.

The question had been asked whether any of the existing National Housing Subsidy Programmes could be used by municipalities for backyard interventions. It was clear that funding was needed for bulk services, to link internal reticulation and top structure. However, there was no national policy for rental housing in backyards, and no national housing subsidy programmes were specifically designed to support backyarding interventions

A draft policy, which was still in consultation, had been developed.

The overall approach would be as follows, according to that draft:
- Municipalities are not advised to undertake programmes to significantly de-densify backyard rental units by building, or to upgrade top structures
- The best approach would be to increase services to existing backyard tenants and indirect interventions that created incentives to landlords to improve conditions of living.

Insofar as backyarders staying on state-owned land were concerned, it was suggested that any interventions should be limited to improving access to services. SALGA would lobby to ensure the Urban Settlement Development Grant (USDG) and Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) could be used by municipalities for this purpose.

The benefit of this approach would be to allow direct access by backyarder to support from municipalities, for backyard tenants to be eligible for the housing subsidy and to contribute to the outcome and goal of providing basic services to the poor households.

The existing situation of backyarders staying on private land could also be improved. Here, it was suggested that the permission of the landlord should be obtained to install a single on-site connection in backyard using MIG, USDG or HSDG funds. It was also suggested that there should be a new affordable credit product targeted to landlords to enable landlords to improve existing dwellings and/or install services.

Options for increasing supply of affordable rental in new housing development on state-owned land were then set out. It was suggested that new settlement layouts should be created, which would facilitate and enable backyard dwelling, with the design of service specifications for the new development.

Options for increasing supply of affordable rental in new housing developments on state-owned land would include raft foundations and additional services connections in the backyard of subsidised houses.

Options for increasing supply of affordable rental in new housing developments on private land would include an indirect government intervention to provide incentives to landlords and facilitate processes to develop decent, affordable backyard rental units, facilitate planning and streamline plan approval procedures, provide technical support for product development and sub-division and purchase by state.

General approaches for improving conditions of existing backyarders and increasing supply of affordable backyard rental were also set out. Here, a suggestion was made to introduce split-zoning schemes, relax building codes for secondary units and introduce a new capital grant for landlords.

Proposals to improve the situation of tenants currently living in backyards were summarised. Firstly, there should be an upgrade of current bulk and connector services to accommodate the additional service load from densification (backyarders). The municipalities should provide additional refuse removal bins and install single on-site connection (with separate metering) in backyards to provide access to services (water, electricity sanitation) and enable eligible backyarders to access free basic services from municipality - using MIG, HSDG, or USDG.

The summary of the proposals to increase the supply of decent and affordable rental units in backyards included a pro-active design proposal to accommodate higher densities and anticipated backyard dwellings (setting out stand size, house design; site layout; extra service connections and separate metering; bulk infrastructure service capacities). Again the option of providing raft foundations in backyards of BNG houses should be explored.

The Chairperson asked if this presentation had been given to COGTA.

Ms Tshangana replied that this was presented at a National Stakeholder meeting in January 2014, but it had not been separately presented it to COGTA.

Mr N Masondo (ANC) commented that it was quite encouraging that there was an attempt to think through the matter and to have some policy in place, and it should help to lead to more certainty.  One of the issues that kept coming up, when he was the Mayor in Johannesburg, was how to deal with the issue of informal settlements related to backyarding. One of the main problems with the graduates coming out of the institutions was that they were trained to assume that they would be dealing with planned urban settlements, and had little sense of the reality of informal settlements, and knew very little about the situation in which the majority of South Africans found themselves. There was need for a policy approach that ensured that these practical issues were dealt with in meaningful ways. One of the issues that faced the country was the elimination of informal settlements. He said there were policy documents that suggested that serviced stands be made available, and he thought that important as part of the overall approach. The policy issue must observe the matter of backyarding too. It was necessary to bear in mind some of the ongoing problems also, like disrepair. The basic facts must not be ignored and challenges must be taken into account.

Mr B Bhanga (ANC) commented that the presentation was "scary" as it had "no good story to tell". Human settlements in countries like Singapore, India and Thailand should be considered. South Africans had fought for freedom and national liberation in order give a better life to the people. In 1991/1992, it was assumed that liberation, for the people in certain areas, would encompass allowing people to build where they wanted, which had the potential for a better life, but backyarding had brought chaos to a particular area near Port Elizabeth. He asked whether continuous densification was really the answer. Some kinds of settlements in historically disadvantaged communities had to be de-densification - such as Soweto. He said that human settlements was not about building houses, but also amenities. People could not be expected to live in backyards for ever. Gugulethu had never been prioritized in terms of housing developments, and he thought that more specific projects rather than backyard upgrades were required. Government had a number of different models for settlements, like gap and social housing, and the social housing target, since 2006, was stated as to deliver more than 100 000 housing units, although it had not been delivering that. He said Community Residential Units (CRU) and social housing were better settlements models than backyarding, and those people whom it was suggested could benefit from backyarding could equally benefit from CRU and social housing. He asked if there was lack of capacity to deliver in these areas, and asked why a simple way of development could not be considered, rather than creating backyard dwellings. In Chile, there was an insistence on finishing one project before embarking on another, but in South Africa a number of projects were embarked on at the same time. The processes and the bureaucracy were a problem, and that was why social housing and CRU models were not working. He said all the models were needed in South Africa. There should be a clearer mechanism to implement backyarding, and careful consideration was needed to ensure that backyard dwellings did not stay in their current form forever.

The Chairperson commented that the Committee was now interrogating a position paper from SALGA which did set out proposals.

Ms L Mnganga-Gcabashe (ANC) commented that the best way to de-densify was to start on Greenfield and buffer zones as that would not create problems. The construction of backyard structures might create a problem, because if housing beneficiaries did get their title deeds and thus became owners, the buildings would now be done on private property. There was the impression that a subsidy could not be used to build on privately owned land. When parents who owned a house died, this would often lead to squabbles by their children, who would fight over the land ownership. One dwelling might fall in a rental category and another in an ownership category. She asked who would become the owner where were problems in the family. In the past, people could not own houses in townships, but government owned lands in townships. She said DHS needed to take cognisance of family challenges when issuing title deeds. She added that when government provided slabs or foundations on government subsidy houses, there should be some regulations in place, to say that beneficiaries could not extend beyond the size that the foundations would be able to bear, to indemnify government.

Mr M Mdakane (ANC) commented that there was no policy that did not have unintended consequences, no matter how progressive it was. It was necessary to consider how best to mitigate any possible negative impacts. The presentation was useful as it had highlighted an untenable situation. He asked how the Committee could intervene, as policy makers. Backyarding was a natural process of any urbanising society, it happened all over the world, and the question was how to manage urbanisation. To appreciate the challenges faced here, the Committee did need to see how local government should respond to continued migration and urbanisation. He suggested that urban areas should be de-densified by providing resources and structures in other areas. He suggested that the joint Committees should make oversight visits to areas so that they could appreciate the situation and later discuss the issues again.

Ms T Baker (DA) commented that the factors which increased urbanisation and backyarding should be considered, such as socio-services. Government had failed to provide adequate houses for the people, and some aged people never in fact received subsidy houses, and continued to live in backyards.  Dome of the suggestions made, such as providing additional free basic services and additional infrastructures, would put enormous strain on municipal financial resources. Much of the current infrastructure was already not maintained, and before loading it further, government should increase capacity, which would need finances and practical implementation. In many areas, there was already no refuse removal or refuse bins, and that too would put strain on local government.

Mr N Khubisa (NFP) commented that this presentation was a useful springboard that would influence policies. Everything started with planning which must make a prognosis of the future and the population. He agreed that urbanisation was an international phenomenon; people would flock to urban areas for reasons of work and opportunities.

The Chairperson commented that the proposals would spark thought, and the issues would need to be debated. She noted that the UN Habitat conference in 2016, in Chile, was to concentrate on urbanisation. The National Development Plan (NDP) talked about sustainable human settlement by 2030, and asked how to mitigate the policy position. She said it was important to discuss the research commissioned by SALGA.

Mr B Bhanga commented that the Department should be asked to provide a way forward on the many research documents commissioned by SALGA.

The Chairperson agreed that the Departments would be asked to present, and oversight and interaction would continue with the two committees sitting jointly.

The meeting was adjourned.

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