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HOUSING PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
7 June 2006
SA HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION: FIFTH ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS REPORT SERIES 2002/03: DEPARTMENT RESPONSE
Chairperson: Ms Z Kota (ANC)
Documents handed out:
South African Human Rights Commission Fifth Economic and Social Rights Report Series 2002/03: presentation
South African Human Rights Commission Fifth Economic and Social Rights Report Series 2002/03
Programme of Action: Management meeting held on 29 March 2006
Committee Report on the Housing Budget public hearing held at the Townhouse Hotel, Cape Town on 12-13 April 2005 (available shortly at Committee Reports)
Access to Adequate Housing
The Department responded to recommendations made by the S outh African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on its Fifth Economic and Social Rights Report Series 2002 /2003. The series focused on the right of access to adequate housing and was based on the state of housing for the 2002/2003 financial year. Access would be enhanced by policy coherence between relevant departments. Additional subsidies had been arranged to accommodate people with special needs, and the approved policies around restructured zones would ensure that people were closer to their places of work.
The series also focused on under-expenditure constraints that the provinces were facing, and made recommendations on how the provinces could improve on Deeds registration delays in National Department Projects. The series highlighted the challenges facing housing development, to which the Department responded that Support Programmes for Housing Chapters of Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) had been set up.
Department of Housing presentation
Mr Bloom, Chief Executive of the National Department of Housing (NDOH), responded to recommendations made by the Human Rights Commission on the state of housing for the 2002/2003 financial year. He started by highlighting the pertinent issues raised in the report. The Commission cited the elements of adequate housing as the security of tenure, the availability of services and infrastructure, the affordability of housing, and the fact that the housing has to habitable, the accessibility of that housing, the location and the fact that the housing has to be culturally adequate. The Department addressed special needs through additional subsidies that have been made available providing specifically for these needs.
The Department had also developed assistance programmes for people living in Emergency Housing Situations, and was fast-tracking delivery (three provinces had already benefited from the programme). People living with HIV/AIDS had been catered for through a number of supplementary private projects. The integration of communities was addressed with the Approved Social Housing Restructuring Zones. The policy was focused on providing affordable rental housing facilities closer to tenants’ places of work.
The comprehensive plans also included negotiations with the construction sector around earmarking affordable housing units in each development venture. Cultural inadequacy of housing was addressed by the finalized feasibility report on a mechanism to support alternative technologies and indigenous knowledge. Rural areas had been earmarked for this venture. Access to information also impacted on access to housing. Housing hotlines within departments provided subsidy information to the public, and consumer education programmes were also being introduced in partnership with ABSA in the form of “Homey to Homey”, which will be covered in all official languages.
The recommendations made by the Commission highlighted the constraints leading to under-expenditure. It was noted that expenditure peaked in the 1995/1996 financial year but this report was based on performance for the 2002/2003 financial year. Failure to identify suitable land was a major constraint, as were delays in tender adjudication, municipalities failing to submit business plans, the National Department delaying approval of projects, capacity constraints (limited resources, many needs), corruption, political intervention and delays at the Deeds Office.
Planning had been assisted by the introduction of a support programme for Housing Chapters of Integrated Development Plans (IDPs). IDPs investigated needs and how to plan for those needs. Current housing chapters were under review, and the Department was in the process of improving existing planning chapters. The Department of Land Affairs (DLA) had a specific mandate to address any outstanding land issues. DLA had indicated its willingness to work with the Department on restitution and tenure programmes. The Minister had indicated that a special vehicle would be established specifically to address land acquisition by the housing departments. Initially the focus was on acquiring public land for housing but there was a new provision for acquiring private land.
New policies and programmes introduced in 2002 were also under review. Those highlighted were the Medium Density Housing Policy, Rental Housing Policy Framework, Emergency Housing Policy, National Home Builders’ Registration Council Warranty Scheme and the Human Settlement Redevelopment Programme. Public Participation was addressed in using the National Housing Indaba held in 2003 where stakeholders were invited to make input, and through an extensive consultative process the comprehensive plan for sustainable informal resettlement was approved at the end of 2004 by Cabinet.
The Rental Housing Act (Act 50 of 1999) and the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (Act 19 of 1998) were currently under revision. Farm workers were accommodated in a draft policy developed in collaboration with the Department of Land Affairs. A Rural Housing Indaba would be held in the third quarter of this year (2006).
The Commission also looked at the challenges facing housing delivery. Highlighted items were: the poor quality of housing, the segmentation between departments involved with housing, the lack of a comprehensive and co-ordinated housing crisis response for vulnerable groups, lack of capacity at municipal level, inability to spend budget allocations, and the delay in the release of state land as a result of land claims.
The Department highlighted the policy of coherence between the relevant departments. This policy ensured co-operative governance and an alignment between provincial housing and the treasury strategic plan. In addition an Municipal Accreditation Programme had been approved. This plan investigated bringing housing funds down to the municipal levels, which would enhance the coherence between the municipalities and the treasury.
Ms Judith Cohen (SAHRC) commented that the SAHRC had reviewed the current format of the report and agreed that it would release reports every three years with the next one due in July covering the 2004/2005/2006 financial year. In addition to the three-year report SAHRC would also be launching a quarterly journal.
The Chairperson acknowledged the SAHRC’s present report and the impact it had on the Department’s ability to fulfil its constitutional duty.
Mr Steyn (DA) expressed concern that the plan of action had been slow, and that many of the SAHRC’s concerns had been standing issues for the past three years, including corruption , municipalities failing to submit business plans, capacity constraints , lack of positive response from the Department regarding corruption (in the form of people being caught and prosecuted for crimes); the implementation of current policies, the affordability of housing, the over-spending in the N2 Gateway Project, and the problems facing the Department in allocating those units to suitable beneficiaries.
Mr Steyn also expressed concern over the High Court decision that gave the Grootboom case as a case-study. He was particularly concerned about the impact such decisions would have on the Urban Regeneration Programme. He wanted it noted that there might be communities in similar situations to Grootboom communities that had not taken the state to task and were therefore not being compensated.
The Chairperson noted that the recommendations and the Department’s response to them was work in progress and should be viewed as such. The Committee should confine itself to matters raised in the report (dated 2002/2003) and not consider issues outside its ambit. The N2 Gateway Project was an example of an issue that was not part of the period in question and should therefore not be addressed. The other issues raised by Mr. Steyn had already been addressed in a prior Committee meeting that Mr Steyn was absent from, so the Committee could not entertain those concerns further.
Mr Bloom (NDOH) was reluctant to address issues pertaining to land restitution. He also acknowledged that corruption was a pertinent issue, but that there were plans and strategies in place to combat it. He acknowledged that affordability of the housing was a barrier to access.
Mr Steyn responded that the challenges mentioned, such as affordability, had been outstanding for the past three years and he felt some progress should have been made in addressing them.
The Chairperson reminded the Committee that it was a Government Policy to introduce rental housing to people who could afford to rent houses. She argued that people would always try to occupy houses that they could not afford and that were seen as empty. She noted that there were two different methods the Department was using to address the housing shortage: rental housing and housing subsidized by the government at no cost to the people.
Mr Mabena (ANC) suggested that the Committee request from the Provinces a database containing all people with disabilities so that the information could be used in quantifying the extent of the need for providing housing to people with special needs.
The Chairperson felt that concerns should be within the confines of the SAHRC report, and that the Committee should bear in mind that the recommendations and the Department’s response to those were a work in progress.
The Chairperson put it to the Committee to agree in principle to the recommendations and the Department’s response to those recommendations.
The Committee agreed but Mr Steyn wanted an addition to the present Rural Housing Developments set out whereby construction would be enhanced by introducing energy saving methods.
The Committee agreed to Mr Steyn's suggestion.
The meeting was adjourned.
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