Housing Department Plan and Budget: briefing

NCOP Public Services

02 June 2004
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Member of Committee (name unknown) (ANC) expressed that he is confused about the Provincial Performances on page 22 of the Budget and Strategy Review and asked whether it was applied vertically or horizontally

PUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
3 June 2004

HOUSING DEPARTMENT PLAN AND BUDGET: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr R Tau (ANC)

Documents handed Out:
Department of Housing presentation

SUMMARY
The head of a team of research analysts from the Department of Housing, Mr Ahmed Vawda, presented an overview of the strategic plan and budget for 2004-2006. The same presentation had been delivered to the Housing Ad Hoc Committee on Wednesday 2 June.
During question time, the Committee was mainly concerned with the seemingly flawed statistics, Department underspending and corruption, building quality standards, and the challenge of providing decent accommodation in informal settlements.

MINUTES
The head of a team of research analysts from the Department of Housing, Mr Ahmed Vawda, presented an overview of the strategic plan and budget for 2004-2006. The same presentation had been delivered to the Housing Ad Hoc Committee on Wednesday 2 June. After the initial overview, the researchers went over six programmes individually:
1) Administration;
2) Policy, planning and research;
3) Programme management;
4) Housing sector performance;
5) Housing equity, and
6) Housing development funding.

Discussion
An ANC Member asked whether provincial performances were expressed vertically or horizontally. He then asked how soon the legislation, as referred to in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), would be brought to this Committee and the Department of Housing. His third question pertained to MTEF Key Strategy Objectives and whether the Department of Housing was still entrusted with building townships.

Mr T Njebod (ANC) (Kwazulu Natal) corrected the presenter on his flawed statistical data. He subsequently queried the rationale behind certain unequal budget allocations, such as mentioned under the Farm Worker Housing Strategy.

Mr G Krumbok (DA) (KwaZulu-Natal) stated that although the NHBRC had managed to raise much money through their 1.4% levy scheme; they still obtained money from the government. He questioned this as he felt the NHBRC already had too much money.

An ANC Member expressed her dissatisfaction that the Department had paid their consultants so much - she felt these consultants were "ripping them off". Housing developments within the Eastern Cape were not up to standard. It would be beneficial to have data on rural developments going ahead. Furthermore, she questioned the benefits of upgrading informal settlements and whether this meant building new houses or merely making present informal establishments more habitable.

The Chairperson commented that the money allocated for provincial performance was R4.2 billion. Only R999 million had been spent - yet the Department had experienced shortages. He asked what steps would be taken to prevent these miscalculations from happening again. His second question referred to the Department's role in fighting poverty and whether they would encourage 'ordinary people' to participate in construction co-operatives, thereby creating more skilled labourers.

Mr Vawda responded that both the Social Housing Bill and the Rental Housing Amendment Bill were being drafted. The Farmworker Housing Strategy had received attention but was also being worked on with the Department of Land Affairs. Local and provincial government as well as Department units needed to follow the strategies. There was a capital subsidy programme installed for provincial oversight of development projects.

Their programme was unable to satisfying all demands regarding the upgrading of informal settlements. The main issue was the permanence of housing arrangements, particularly for people who wanted to rent as they had a subsidy elsewhere. The complete eradication of such settlements was an impossible task, and for this reason, upgrading was the best long-term and short-term solution to make living conditions tolerable.

He continued that construction co-operative programmes were encouraged. Efficient institutional arrangements would allow for more government-driven housing projects with stronger financial support.

Mr Vawda expressed that the NHBRC fund issue was contentious in that the organisation was paid to provide an insurance service to ensure that there was always a monetary surplus. The NHBRC was in a very volatile position and thus required greater finances.

It was a provincial duty to provide housing progress reports, and this was being addressed. However, it was often a challenge as communities frequently interfered with projects and so delayed progress. Where rural development was concerned, the Department was capable of monitoring all projects and areas of rural development were visited on regular intervals.

Mr Njebod referred to instances of underspending, roll-overs, and money transfers and queried why this money was not put towards those projects that required the greatest attention. He also asked why some projects were completed within six weeks before the national elections and why other more significant projects remained unattended to. He also asked for feedback on municipal accreditations.

Ms M Olifant (ANC) (KwaZulu-Natal) asked about progress in the upgrading of hostels to family units, and also asked about the reasons for the decrease in budget allocation in the Northern and Eastern Cape.

Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) (Limpopo) asked about the establishment of the anti-corruption unit by the Minister of Housing. She asked what the Department was doing about complaints surrounding the poor quality of existent government housing, and also how the Department would handle housing waiting lists.

Ms H Muller commented on the problems of government housing being sold through court orders, as well as people never occupying their allocated houses, but instead charging rent to avoid paying rates and taxes. These issues were worrisome as there was no administrative system.

The presenters responded that they would be looking at rental and social housing, as well as municipal housing associations. The system was presently operated on a rent-to-buy basis. On the waiting list issue, they said that each province would have to structure a list, and housing institutions had already been set-up to address this. It was difficult to correctly correlate each waiting list with a PHP programme. Informal settlements had become 'median-strips' between rental housing and no housing at all.

All subsidy housing needed to correspond with NHBRC quality standards. Compliance would invariably happen at a later stage as certain building regulations were already in place. Public education, awareness and should clarify what an individual could do with his or her land; such as the illegal sale of a government-owned house. They encouraged the practice of renting if it was not abused.

The meeting was adjourned due to time constraints.

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