Sustainable Low-Cost Housing Development: Presentation by SEED

Share this page:

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

16 May 2001

Chairperson: Ms N Hangana

Documents Handed Out:
Sustainable Energy, Environment and Development's (SEED) Programme outline
Cost Benefit Analysis of Energy Efficiency in Low Cost Housing report
Cost Benefit Analysis Powerpoint presentation
SEED Update, quarterly organizational newsletter
"Soul City: Using Energy in the Home" brochure
"SEED Urban" programme brochure
"Ensuring Sustainability in Housing Delivery" (see Appendix)
"Consequences of Bad Housing"

SEED delegation: Leila Mahomed, SEED coordinator; Fikiswa Mahote, SEED advisor at the Development Action Group (DAG); James Nowicki, Project Officer placed at the Energy and Development Group; Harald Winkler, senior researcher at the University of Cape Town working with the Energy and Development Group; Monwabisi Booi, SEED advisor placed with the City of Cape Town's local government.

SEED is a non-governmental organization committed to promoting sustainable energy and environmental practices for both policy makers and urban/rural low-income residents. They spoke about the economics and environmental implications of energy efficiency in low cost housing. It was noted that many interventions such as ventilation improvement and use of natural light would only take design modifications and would cost virtually nothing. Changes in ceilings, insulation and solar-powered water heaters would cost incrementally more. They believe that alterations in design regulations should be undertaken as soon as possible.

The Chairperson noted that the committee's trip to India has been approved and the date will soon be set. Also, the provincial housing reports have been completed and distributed to members. A vote for adoption will be held next week.

SEED presentation
While introducing the presenters, Ms Hangana expressed some general concerns she had over low cost housing in South Africa. Her first concern was with the distribution and location of the new housing development sites. Secondly, she recognized that there was little environmental education being done in regards to housing. She proclaimed that there was a need for stakeholders to work together in solving South Africa's housing problems, that the nation needed a holistic approach.

Ms Mohamed introduced the organization and explained that SEED was currently at the end of Phase 1 of their initiative, creating awareness and implementation options for local authorities and the community.

Sustainability Through Policy Implementation
Mr Nowicki spoke on ensuring sustainability in housing delivery. He gave background and made reference to the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) of 1998, which defined sustainable development as "the integration of social, economic and environmental factors into planning, implementation and decision making, so as to ensure that development serves present and future generations." He also described some environmental obligations that were facing South Africa in the future. Among the most immediate ones were the Earth Summit, to be held in South Africa in 2002, and the nation's commitment to having a National Strategy for Sustainable Development, also by 2002.

Mr Nowicki stressed the importance of giving attention to issues of energy efficiency/conservation, water conservation, and greenery preservation. In regards to policy, each province must prepare an Environmental Implementation Plan (EIP) and to monitor and review their implementation on a regular basis in accordance with the NEMA. Those responsible for facilitating the EIPs are the Directorate: Human Settlement Policy and Integration in the Chief Directorate: Policy Planning. There will be an assembly of a task team that will help as well. Parliament must assist in monitoring these EIPs.

The benefits of strong EIPs would include:
- clean and cheaper solutions to all sectors
- improved legislation in building standards
- opportunities for Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs): funding for Carbon Dioxide reduction
- a competitive advantage in sustainable technologies for South Africa
- an overall contribution to the global community

SEED at a Local Level
Mr Booi gave a brief description of SEED's aim to promote sustainable energy and environmental practices for both policy makers and urban/rural low-income residents. He described how SEED was working, particularly in urban centers at a local level. In Cape Town, SEED has partnered with the Tygerberg Administration, City of Cape Town local government and the Development Action Group (DAG). In Durban, they have started relationships with the Built Environment Support Group (BESG) and Durban Metro Housing Unit in the City of Durban. And in Gauteng, they are partners with the Midrand Eco-city Project and the Greenhouse People's Project.

He mentioned that SEED has set up a demonstration house in Midrand and Tygerberg for citizens to come and view how an environmentally sustainable house is constructed. During March 2001, over 1500 people visited the Tygerberg Demonstration Center. He also mentioned the organization's newsletter, the SEED Update and the group's website, both used to disseminate valuable information to the public. The group has produced a video entitled "Home Sweet Home" that is distributed in low-income areas. As Phase 1 comes to an end, Mr Booi highlighted the fact that SEED has accomplished much of its goal for this phase—to create a fluid dialogue between SEED, local NGOs and the community. SEED now looks to expand its capacity for implementing its programmes.

Cost Benefit Analysis
Mr Winkler spoke on the cost benefit analysis of energy efficient low cost housing. His goal was to prove that the interventions set out by SEED would be highly beneficial for both low-income households and for society as a whole. He explained that the analysis was based on a comparison between three types of low cost housing: the 30-square meter RDP house, the row house and the informal house. The interventions that were analyzed included: ceiling/roof/wall insulation, window size adjustment/partition and efficient lighting/solar water heating.

Mr Winkler noted that the benefits for society were large if all three interventions were taken. Particularly for row houses, the benefits reached the R6 billion mark. He noted that a less than R1000 per household subsidy increase was needed to reach these goals. He highlighted some potential financing opportunities: bilateral funding, multi-lateral development banks and international sources like the United Nations and the European Union.

Consequences of Bad Housing
In her slide show presentation, Ms Mahote showed a series of striking images that highlighted many of the inefficiencies found in South African low-cost housing.

First, she highlighted problems caused by a lack of proper ventilation:
- absence of airbricks
- condensation inside the homes
- poor indoor air quality
- moldy ceilings
- burnt kitchen ceilings and walls
- respiratory problems for residents
She proposed the installation of more open windows, clear airbricks, ventilated roofs and raised ceilings.

Second, she looked at problems caused by poor construction:
- cracked walls beneath windowsills and around door frames
- leaking weather walls during rains
- thick mortar fillings above lintels
- house dimensions not modular to block size
- broken or loose roof sheets
- house sizes that are far too small to accommodate inhabitants
- inefficient use of natural sunlight for heat and light
- inefficient use of land plots
- lack of greenery used for shade and cooling
- usage of dangerous materials such as asbestos
She proposed a higher standard of supervision during construction, inspection by local authorities, leaving room for future extension in homes, dividing rooms to create more private space and regreening areas to allow for more natural shade. She noted that the layout of the townships also posed a danger to small children who easily get lost. Also, the layout promotes crime because of the lack of green space on which children could play.

Request to Parliament
Ms Mahomed concluded the presentation with a general plea to Parliament explaining that the Portfolio Committee could greatly assist in the passage of related policy, the expansion of the budget for such programmes and the implementation and regulation of monitoring programmes. She noted that the intentions of policy at the moment do not meet with the provisions of the small subsidies given to low-income families for housing. The Portfolio Committee could play an important role in awareness, information dissemination, regulating builders and developers, engaging local authorities and soliciting financial institutions—all a part of SEED's Phase 2. SEED recommended using the 2002 Earth Summit in Johannesburg as a stepping stone to great changes. In return, SEED offered its services as trainers for an environmentally and sustainable energy conscious Parliament.

Several committee members praised SEED for their thorough and captivating presentation. Mr J Nash (ANC) explained that SEED was here to bring their policy concerns before Parliament. He also explained that SEED is divided into both urban and rural sectors. He was pleased that SEED had initiated discussion in the committee and desired the organization to return in the near future.

Ms Hangana reaffirmed that organizations that have grievances with Parliament's actions should always come before the committees to air their views. She desired to create a constructive engagement with the public sector.

In answer to a query if Peer Africa is involved with SEED, Ms Mahomed replied that there is an informational exchange relationship with Peer Africa, but they are not under SEED's organizational structure. They do, however, share many of the same environmental goals.

Mr G Schneemann (ANC) reminded the committee how far housing has come since the 1994 transition. He asked how SEED worked specifically with local authorities and developers. He gave an example of the Northern Province that is in great need of financial assistance to expand capacity for housing development.

Mr Booi responded that they have advisors in local NGOs in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. Builders in the area are invited to seminars and demonstrations. They are working toward improving regulations and zoning laws at the local level.

Ms G Borman (DP) asked if SEED had considered using refuse recycling as a viable option for low-cost sustainable energy such as a plant he had viewed in the United States.

Mr Nowicki of SEED responded that the recycling of waste products, while environmentally friendly, was often very pricey, possibly harmful to human inhabitants and could easily be substituted with other sources of energy such as air and solar energy.

Mr S Montsitsi (ANC) asked if subsidy costs could be preserved via a more efficient material or manner of workmanship used in constructing the low-cost housing.

Mr Winkler noted that most interventions such as ventilation improvement and use of natural light would only take design modifications and would cost virtually nothing. Changes in ceilings, insulation and solar-powered water heaters would cost incrementally more.

Mr W Skhosana (ANC) asked if timing had been taken into consideration as he wondered if the nation's technological and economic capacities were in line to undertake a project of such significance.

Ms Mahote replied that the DAG works with many self-developmental programmes and promotes taking these projects into the rural and urban areas. She said that the alterations in design regulations and local commitments should be undertaken as soon as possible.

Mr A Singh (DP) asked a question about the monitoring process for developers and also asked if women have access to development training. Ms R Southgate (ACDP) expressed an interest in examining the subsidy program as well as looking into local vegetation laws. However, due to the shortage of time, these questions were unable to be answered by SEED. Ms Hangana and Ms Southgate both expressed an eager desire for SEED to return to further this dialogue. Ms Hangana emphasized to SEED that the presentation had created great interest within the Committee. The Committee would deliberate further about the issues raised by the presentation.

The meeting was adjourned.

Ensuring Sustainability in Housing Delivery

Background and Context

Sustainable development provides the framework for improving the quality of life of civil society while ensuring that poverty alleviation and the equitable distribution of resources occurs. The National Environmental Management Act (1998) defines sustainable development as "the integration of social economic and environmental factors into planning, implementation and decision making, so as to ensure that development serves present and future generations. It is now recognized that this 'development' must be further defined if truly sustainable cities are going to be realized; what is the nature and quality of the growth, is it equitable and will it resulting a content and happy populace? Such a new definition is likely to look at indicators relating to social and environmental quality (such as public participation levels and specified environmental quality levels) rather than GNP and per capita income alone.

Linking Local and Global issues

In order to achieve development aims, it is recognized that global, national and local initiatives and interventions are required. The link between global and localized sustainability problems was first clearly conceived at the United Nations Conference for Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio in 1992 where it was recognized that problems such as global warming, loss of diversity, and inequity often result in enormous local impacts. It was further recognized that local interventions and actions, could potentially have a large impact on global problems. The launch of the Local Authority Agenda 21 (LA 21) programme in Rio in 1992, provides a framework for local authorities to tackle sustainability issues at a local level.

The link between poverty, environmental degradation and alack of participation or public ownership, is increasingly becoming the focus of global 'sustainable development' initiatives. South Africa's hosting of the Earth Summit in 2002, as well as the countries commitment to having a National Strategy for Sustainable Development by 2002, will increasingly put the spotlight on the region and the ability to implement such intentions.

South African Housing Strategy

We have have come an enormous way since 1994:
Housing Policy (links between poverty and environment - service needs)
Environmental policy (NEMA, EIA's, input into LA21 and IDP plans)
Energy policy (poverty, efficiency, tariff equalisation and diversification of supply)
LA 21 and IDP regulations (public participation)

The National Housing code (March 2000) describes the housing policy for the country, sets a vision and describes how we are to arrive at this vision. The code is required in terms of the National Housing Act of 1997. The primary goal of the code is to address the housing shortfall of 2,2 million houses in 1997, however an important part of the vision refers to the broader context in which houses should be built. "Habitable, stable and sustainable public and private residential environments" which will allow access to "potable water adequate sanitary facilities and domestic energy supply". References to environmental sustainability are also found in both the urban and rural vision, the former stressing the need to balance open space and renewable cycles with built environments and consumption and the latter emphasizing the need to improve access to water and energy which consumes time and degrades rural environments

Hundreds of houses are being built each day, with a majority of developments not considering environmental issues. In particular, energy efficiency and conservation, water conservation and greening issues are often neglected. Considering how much can be achieved by simple interventions and considerations, particularly in the initial planning and scoping stages of a project, we are missing out on hundreds of social, environmental and economic opportunities each day.

The National Housing Strategy recently developed an environmental implementation plan which has laid the basis for implementing interventions (NEMA requires that national and provincial departments exercising functions which may affect the environment, in terms of Schedule 1 of the Act, prepare an Environmental Implementation Plan (EIP) and to monitor and review their implementation on a regular basis). The primary responsibility for the development and implementation of environmental considerations for the DOH rests with the Directorate Human Settlement Policy and Integration in the Chief Directorate: Policy Planning. The challenge is to ensure that these guidelines are implemented by provinces, metro's and local authorities in view of them being non obligatory. Local Authorities are faced with the challenge of developing local legislation to ensure that specific interventions and guidelines are implemented.

Local authorities, if the capacity and motivation is in place, will adopt these guidelines by developing local legislation, pilot projects and partnerships in line with the LA 21 programme. Yet the EIP recognises that "Municipalities do not always have a dedicated Housing Department as in the case of national and provincial governments. Housing is often undertaken as part of the functions of the Planning or Engineering Departments". It is clear that the agent responsible for implementing the EIP will have to ensure that each local authority (Planning, Environmental or other departments), has an understanding of and capacity to implement the guidelines in line with their LA 21 and IDP regulations and including all stakeholders in a transparent process.

Who will ensure the EIP is implemented
According to the EIP, the primary responsibility for the development and implementation of environmental considerations for the DOH rests with the Directorate Human Settlement Policy and Integration in the Chief Directorate: Policy Planning.
The Sub-Directorate Policy Co-ordination and Integration is responsible for facilitating co-operative governance in terms of the Department of Housing's EIP. This Directorate is also responsible for coordinating the Environmentally Sound Low Cost Housing Task Team. In addition to this, the "extended Task Team will act as the structure for co-operative environmental governance between the national and provincial spheres of government, as well as other stakeholders. This will include ensuring consistency between Provincial EIPs as far as housing is concerned".
Considering the importance and scope of the possible environmental interventions (and the scale of the current lost opportunities), there is a real 'policy-action' opportunity, and it is everyone's responsibility to ensure that the Sub-Directorate and/or Task Team will be able to influence local level actions aimed at ensuring that "general recommendations for energy efficient housing, water-efficiency techniques and urban greening" (i.e. the aim of the Environmentally Sound Low Cost Housing Guidelines), are implemented by developers or individuals building houses under the Housing Subsidy Programme.

Benefits and Opportunities of effective EIP implementation

Clean and Green, Safe, Cheap solutions
National EIP guidelines and interventions is considered and implemented at local project level (as part of LA 21 or other).
Building standards will follow once local authorities are empowered (legislation)
Opportunities of CDM's
South Africa will have a competitive advantage in sustainable technologies.
Contributing to global commitments (full circle back!)

That a responsible agent (Task Team OR the Directorate Human Settlement Policy and Integration in the Chief Directorate: Policy Planning) ensures that:

National EIP guidelines and interventions is considered and implemented at local project level (as part of LA 21 or other).
Local authority initiatives consider all EIP interventions as part of their IDP planning process.
All tiers of environmental management are mandated to consider EIP interventions when assessing plans or EIA's for housing developments (Task team capacity to be built at Provincial and Metro tiers).
All stakeholders are well informed about possible interventions and savings prior to any planning (objectives) decisions being undertaken.


No related


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: