The Department of Military Veterans briefed the Committee on the provision of housing to military veterans. The departments responsible for the provision of houses are the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) and the national and provincial Department of Human Settlements (DHS).
The main point of the exercise was to provide military veterans with houses, to settle their mortgage loans, and to regulate their benefits.
The criteria for the allocation of housing to beneficiaries were provided by the military benefits regulations. The agreement stipulated that military veterans merited housing if they were on the DMV data base and if they fell under the rubric of the Act that was formulated for the provision of housing to military veterans. Furthermore, the veteran must be unemployed or receiving a pension, or if they were employed, their income must be below R125 000 per annum.
The achievement of targets for the delivery of houses had been consistent since 2014, up to the second quarter of the current financial year. The best province for housing delivery was Gauteng, then the Eastern Cape, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. The DMV had encountered problems with houses being provided which were not located suitably for eligible veterans, and the solution had been to build close to where beneficiaries were located, or provide a housing subsidy. Another challenge was the irrational building of larger houses in some provinces, leading to budget problems.
Committee Members questioned the qualifications of the beneficiaries, and asked if the Department’s draft policy took into account the challenges mentioned in the presentation. Bulk infrastructure was a critical issue, as the houses should not be built where there was no infrastructure. It was the responsibility of the Department to ensure the municipality identified areas suitable for housing veterans. Members also asked how many military veterans had been trained to assist in the delivery of houses. Other matters raised were whether the DMV criteria took into account those veterans who had had their homes repossessed; and the fact that younger military veterans were gaining homes before the older ones, knowing very well that they were in better health. What was being done to stop this practice?
Housing Assistance for Military Veterans
Mr Max Ozinsky, Acting DG: DMV, said the housing assistance programme was administered jointly between the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) and the national Department of Human Settlements (DHS) in terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The DMV also had service level agreements (SLAs) with all the provincial departments. These agreements were signed individually with the Department, yet the contents of the agreements were all the same throughout the board.
The main point of the exercise was to provide military veterans with houses; to settle mortgage loans of military veterans; and to regulate the military veterans’ benefits in terms of the MOU’s and SLA’s which were joint agreements between the three parties -- the DMV, the national DHS and the provincial DHS. The role of DMV was to identify military veterans who were eligible for housing assistance, and to provide the national DHS and the provincial DHS with the list of beneficiaries.
The provincial Department made provision for the construction of the houses and once the units were completed, it proceeded to hand them over to the DMV. The DHS evaluates the construction of the houses to verify that the specification of the project has been fulfilled accordingly. The houses are handed over to the beneficiaries after the process of evaluation has been completed.
The national Department was responsible for overseeing the project implementation across the country, by creating housing sector skills for military veterans and assisting them with housing-related issues and difficulties. The provincial Department was responsible for building the houses according to the national department’s specifications.
The main issue DMV faced was the difficulty of who the beneficiaries are. The SA National Military Veterans Association (SANMVA), the DHS and DMV deal with the allocation issue together to maintain the agreements nonetheless.
The criteria for the allocation of beneficiaries are provided by the military benefits regulation. The agreement stipulates that military veterans merited housing if they were on the DMV data base and if they fell under the rubric of the Act that was formulated for the provision of housing to military veterans. Furthermore, the veteran must be unemployed or receiving a pension; if they were employed, their income must be below R125 000 per annum. Within the income limit, the veteran’s spouse’s income was not calculated. The veterans themselves must not own a house, and this raised other issues for the DMV regulations, as there were individual cases. For instance, the veteran may have a house in his name though he did not reside in the house themselves anymore, or if the veteran had inherited a house though he was living with his Immediate and extended family.
The process flow of the allocation of houses list was reviewed. The list stipulated that the DMV use its database to allocate the houses, or the veterans themselves could approach the DMV to apply for housing. Also, SANMVA themselves could approach the DMV on the behalf of the veterans for housing allocation. After this process, the DMV creates their database according to each province, and this was then handed over to the DHS system. This data was shared with SANMVA and the provincial Department of Human Settlements. The Provincial department then initiates housing projects according to the database and specifications provided. After this, the houses are assessed and provided to the beneficiaries by the DMV. Once consensus is reached by the stakeholders, the beneficiaries fill in and hand over forms. In the process of housing construction, the stakeholders receive a quarterly progress report. On completion, the provincial DHS invoices the national DHS.
Mr Ozinsky reviewed the current housing needs database, the timeline stating that the DMV had started the collection of data in October 2015, and that 21 110 potential housing beneficiaries were considered. This list consisted of 16 800 non-statutory force (NSF) members and 4 311 former statutory force members who had requested housing. The beneficiaries were pre-screened with the systems of the national DHS to see if they were eligible to receive housing. The pre-screening was done on the housing subsidy system, jointly by the DMV and DHS, who check if the veteran had previously benefited from the system, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to see if they were employed, and the Deeds Office to see if they previously and currently owned a house. From the screening, 16 421 applicants were disqualified, 5 770 were deceased, 844 had invalid ID’s as they were not on the national system of Home Affairs, 6 336 had title deeds, 2 931 had already received subsidies, and 538 were earning more than R125 000 per annum. 4 990 pre-qualified and of those, 67% were former NSF members and 33% were former statuary force members. The provincial breakdown of the 4 990 showed that Gauteng had the largest number of beneficiaries (1 020), followed by the Eastern Cape (631), KwaZulu-Natal (411) and Mpumalanga (140).
In 2017, the list of 1 421 military veterans was provided by the DMV to the DHS for the allocation of houses. The projected amount had previously been 1 000, but the DMV intended to stick to the 1 421 to be provided housing from this year’s database.
On performance of delivery of houses against targets, starting from the 2014/15 vs 2016/17 financial year and heading to the second quarter of the financial year, the target reached throughout the financial year of 2014/15 had been consistent throughout to the second quarter of the financial year. The best province for housing delivery was Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal, then the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.
At the beginning of February 2017, the issue that arose was that SANMVA was not responding to the proposed number of 1 421 applicants. There had also been house break-ins by rejected veteran applicants. This had caused disorganisation to the programme on a small scale, but it was an issue worth noticing. An action committee had been put in place, and then SANMVA claimed to be dealing with the issue, yet it was persisting and had not been fully resolved. An example was that most of the housing in Mthatha had been allocated mainly to former statutory force members, more than military veterans. The difficulty was to get SANMVA on the ground to provide a direction or any form of solution, due to unclear reasons.
Regarding the age limit of the military veterans, some who were born in the mid-70s did not qualify to be eligible for the houses as they were young teenagers in the early 90s. The military veterans were considered eligible if they were former Umkhonto We Sizwe members or part of the June 16 movement. Those veterans were calculated to be in their 60s, and should be provided with housing as they were worthy beneficiaries.
Mr Ozinsky referred to the location of housing. The beneficiaries may be eligible to receive a house, but this did not mean that the veterans were willing to leave their communities and inconvenience their families for the housing. Because of this, where the houses for military veterans were placed was highly prioritised, considering different ranges of location, from rural to urban.
Some houses had completion issues caused by municipalities not installing water or electricity within the areas the housing units had been placed, which was an outrage of its own. On the solution to the issue of screening -- a national drafting -- had been circulated, which looked at how to manage rejection cases. The DMV had formulated provincial screening committees to perform dispute resolution. The provincial department had been given power to override the DHS system. The DHS and the DMV had mapped the beneficiaries to allocate them housing near their locations.
Ms Nomhle Dambuza (ANC) asked if there was a process that assisted in reducing the outstanding amount on mortgages, to relieve this burden on veterans as a benefit. She asked about the issue of SANMVA not approving the list of 1 421 applicants so far, and if there were any other alternatives for the applicants to be screened and approved so they could gain their housing status as soon as possible. Bulk infrastructure was a critical issue, and houses should not be built where there was no infrastructure. It was the responsibility of the Department to ensure the municipality identified areas suitable for housing veterans. How many military veterans had been trained to assist in the delivery of houses?
Mr S Esau (DA) commented that the Committee had not actually seen the draft policy on housing. He asked about the issues raised about the criteria to qualify as a beneficiary, and whether the policy been reviewed by the Minister’s office and gone through the whole process. On veterans that had previously owned homes, did the criteria consider those who had had their homes repossessed, as the house would stay in their name nonetheless. Did the DMV and the DHS understand the common issue about repossessed homes?
When the DHS builds RDP houses and houses for veterans, do they add the R78 000 under all circumstances? If this was the case, do the veterans that come for subsidies gain R188 000, or receive R78 000.
Mr Esau raised concern about the age of the veterans. He knew the younger military veterans were obtaining homes before the older ones, knowing very well that they had better health conditions than the older ones. If there had not been a policy review on this, what had been done to eradicate the issue?
Mr D Gamede (ANC) said the Committee’s main concern was about the number of veterans. The presentation indicated that there were 21 000 military veterans, and 5 700 had been lost. The Committee had mentioned before that the number would decrease as the years went by. With that said, the budget should also decrease at the same rate as the death rate of the military veterans. He asked how the Department dealt with those veterans that failed the screening. He questioned the way forward with the previously mentioned common issues of qualification for housing. Lastly, he asked how many military veterans who had disabilities had been targeted to receive RDP houses.
Mr Ozinsky responded to the question on the outstanding amounts and mortgages. The Act, which also answered the question about veterans and their dependents, states that the housing was only for military veterans and not their dependents. The draft policy includes a change to this Act, which now supplements for the military veteran’s dependents.
On the issue of mortgages, the regulation states that the Department can only pay for a beneficiary’s mortgage if the outstanding amount is less than the benefit amount, which is R188 000.
Ms Dambuza suggested that the Committee would like to be involved with the draft policy formulation.
Mr Ozinsky said the Department would appreciate a helping hand from the Committee. Even though there were suggestions from the Committee, the Department would not feel obliged to take every recommendation the Committee provided.
On the questions posed by Mr Esau about mortgages, the subsidy process was fully paid by the DMV and this financial burden was their responsibility alone.
On the question of veterans who qualified but were not on the database, the database always changed. The DMV always allows veterans to apply to be on the database when they were not on the database.
Mr Ozinsky acknowledged the issue of the age of veterans that received the housing. The draft policy was still not finalised, so it would be ideal to add that to the policy. The implementation of the oldest veterans getting houses first would be difficult due to diverse issues that were dealt with commonly in the DMV.
Mr Esau raised a concern about the fair distribution being done proportionally within the allocation of the houses to military veterans by the DMV.
Mr Ozinsky illustrated the estimated and actual number of houses completed. Within that number there were a few that would possibly not be built on time. When the stakeholders respond to the Department with a completed number of houses, the DMV allocates them to the beneficiaries. The matter of fair distribution was hindered in this process, as the Department could provide houses only on completion of construction and assessment.
Mr William Jiyana, Chief Director (CD): Stakeholder Relations and Intergovernmental, DHS, addressed the question of fair distribution, and said some provinces were more efficient in the delivery of housing than others. Gauteng, for instance, was the fastest as they had more capacity and more resources. Mpumalanga was issue free with the allocation of housing, as there had not been any complaints from the Department nor from the military veterans. These areas should be used as examples for the way forward, as they were using methods that could be implemented throughout the country for faster results.
Mr Ozinsky said that the DMV did provide the military veterans with temporary housing, specifically in times of need. Some military veterans had been at risk of being homeless, and the DMV steps in where it can. Emergency housing had now been placed in the draft policy, as it created budgetary issues if it had not been planned for. The emergency houses were expensive, so the DMV uses public works housing and other national government housing for these emergency-related issues. The stakeholders had been looking to add wellness centres within the housing areas, as the military veterans were of age and they needed to be taken care of.
Mr Ozinsky responded to Mr Gamede about the decreasing number of veterans, and said the DMV was also getting more people from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), which also meant a high volume of participants being provided housing by the DMV. The DMV could not decrease its budget as the number of participants was being supplemented by other stakeholders.
Mr Sibongiseni Ndlovu, CFO: DHS, provided the financial report. He went over the geolocation of the houses and the veterans, and said the disparity and separation of the veterans from the provided housing had been an issue for some time. The solution was building where the veterans were, or to provide the veteran with a housing subsidy. There was an issue of irrational square meter increases in house sizes in other provinces, which had impacted on the national budget.
KwaZulu-Natal was wanting to implement its own construction companies to build its own houses for the military veterans.
The Chairperson recommended that provinces that had been doing very well deserved a visit from the Committee, as they needed to be congratulated for their efforts. In the provinces that were not doing well, the MECs needed to be invited to explain their shortcomings.
The meeting was adjourned.
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