Housing Development Agency Bill Departmental Briefing; & Social Housing Bill: Negotiating Mandates

NCOP Public Services

14 May 2008
Chairperson: Mr R Tau (ANC, Northern Cape)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee heard the negotiating mandates of several provinces on the Social Housing Bill, noting that these mandates were presented after public hearings had been conducted in each province. Although the Bill was widely supported there were several matters that were raised, including the need to define more clearly the position of child-headed households, the protection to the elderly and disabled, rental for pensioners, the need to clarify public private partnerships, and the need to consult with traditional leaders. It was pointed out that any profits should be reinvested back into housing. Provision should be made that an individual should not rent more than one house. It was recommended that clause 5 must be reviewed. North West had not sent a mandate. It was recommended that the Committee should arrange for oversight visits and Members raised the concern that any regulations to be made should be presented to Parliament before publication.

The Department of Housing briefed the Committee on the objectives of the Housing Development Agency Bill, setting out the primary reason for establishment of the Agency and its work. The Agency was primarily set up to identify and acquire land that would  then be developed and used for residential and community purposes. It was intended that it should work in collaboration with other State departments and institutions to fulfill its purpose. It would liaise with the municipalities on incomplete projects and the upgrading of informal settlements, as well as dealing with housing solutions where the need arises. It could also acquire land both from the State and private individuals, under certain circumstances. The presenters went briefly through the clauses of the Bill. Members commented that they had found the presentation inadequate and the officials not able to deal with matters in detail, and asked questions around expropriation, the appointment of the governing body, the exact functions of the Agency, and whether the powers were not too wide. They further asked about secondment of staff, and termination of its mandate.

Meeting report

Social Housing Bill (the Bill): Negotiating mandates
Mr M Gogo , ANC Member of Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature, summarised the resolutions taken by the legislature after it had conducted seven public hearings across the province. Concerns were expressed that the Bill should indicate what happened to dependants of tenants who had died, as it was not clear on the matter. The implementation of social housing had to include all elements of sustainable human settlement, and the environment had to allow settlers to perform their cultural activities. In addition the public and private partnership aspects had to be clearly explained to avoid exploitation. There was a need for traditional leaders to be consulted and that necessitated an amendment of the Bill. In terms of restructuring, it had to be considered that land was scarce in urban areas and that made it difficult to deliver housing services, especially to the poor. When considering restructuring zones those responsible had to avoid driving people out of town into the periphery, which was the case where preference was given to renters over property owners.

Advocate T H Malakoane, Legal Advisor to the Free State Legislature, said that after three public hearings the Legislature had some comments on the Bill. The Department of Social Housing had to set up offices in the province to deal with matters as they arose. The Department also had to provide information regarding the structure and size of houses to be built. Personal income of those who received the housing services had to be considered when deciding on the amount of rent to be paid, as some people, such as pensioners, could not afford to pay rent, and could thus be rendered homeless if proper considerations were not made. Furthermore, local contractors had to be supported through award of contracts to build the houses. The Department of Housing had to consider giving a purchase option for the houses.

The Chairperson briefed the Committee on the results of public hearings from the Gauteng Province. The view was expressed that the Bill had to cover cooperatives in depth and that the documentation had to be user friendly. Recommendations were made for the monitoring and control of the Social Housing Institutions that had to be accountable to parliament. The Social Housing Bill had to clearly define the income strata of those to be considered for the service, considering the inflationary environment. He added that there was a recommendation that clause 16(4) of the Bill be deleted, while section 3 and 4 should  be revised.

Mr Kamal Panday,  IFP Member of Kwa Zulu Natal Provincial Legislature, said that after public hearings held in Pietermaritzburg and Durban there were several conclusions made on the Bill. The definitions in the Bill should include all entities that would benefit from the Bill. The word “restructuring” had to be replaced with demarcated zones. The Social Housing institution should be defined as an institution that provided state funded housing at an affordable rate, ensuring quality and long-term housing. Chapter 4 of the Bill should include the fact that the social housing institution was not for profit, and that whatever profit was made had to be invested back into the housing projects to improve the quality of housing. The term “regular”, as it related to house inspection, should specify the periods when inspections would be conducted – be this  monthly, quarterly or yearly. The Bill had to make provisions for the old and disabled as they had not been accounted for.

Kgoshi L Mokoena (ANC, Limpopo) reported that workshops and public hearings had been held in Limpopo, and recommendations were made. Accessibility to housing services by the previously disadvantaged communities had to be prioritised and services had to be extended to the rural areas where land was cheap. The Bill should provide measures to avoid rental of more than one house by an individual. There had to be identification of land for rezoning. The Bill should also include provisions for previously disadvantaged individuals who could not provide surety. Foreigners and the youth should be included as well. Mr Mokoena said it was recommended that regional offices should be set up in all areas. It was found that stakeholders and the public supported most of the provisions in the bill.

The Chairperson reported on the position in the Northern Cape. He noted that it had been recommended that legal and technical inputs must be made regarding child headed households. He asked what had happened to the funds that were allocated for the 2008-2009 financial year. He said there had to be regulatory criteria for allocation of housing. He added that the regulatory authority should authorise forensic investigation if there was no improvement in performance.

Mr W Douglas, ACDP Member of Western Cape Provincial Legislature, said that clause 2 in line 25 of page 25 should read “not discriminate against any resident on grounds set out in section 9 of the Constitution”.

Mr A Watson (DA, Mpumalanga) said that after six public hearings in three regions of the Mpumalanga Province the Bill had been supported, but it had been suggested that Clause 5 of the Bill had to be reviewed.

Rev P Moatshe (ANC, North West) apologised for the fact that North West Province was unable to send the mandate.

Mr Panday noted that the Social Housing Foundation guidelines led to endorsement of the Bill by all, and noted that amendments of a technical nature had been proposed. The mandate of the Western Cape was the easiest. He said that all issues raised by Limpopo should be addressed and noted that this province, being largely rural in nature, had vast amounts of land that provided opportunities for the people. He stated that restructuring should indicate the owners of certain pieces of land after acquisition. He said that there had to be “land banking” for housing development purposes.

Mr Kamal noted that a previously disadvantaged person renting property should not pay more than one third of monthly income for rental..

Mr Dennis Neer, ANC Member of Eastern Cape Legislature, said the law indicated how property was to be transferred in case of owner’s death.

Mr Panday said restructuring zones should be clearly defined in the document.

Mr Neer said, with regard to Mpumalanga’s demand for regional offices, that it had to be considered that this was a national Agency operation and thus all provinces would be included. He said he supported the awarding of building contracts to local contractors.  He said there should be provision of a purchasing option, noting that some projects were in distress as people were under the under the impression that they could own property after having rented for some years. He cited miscommunication as the reason for the confusion.

Mr M Mzizi, (IFP, Gauteng) said the Social Housing Agency should be accountable for its actions. He added that accreditation of the institution depended on performance.

The Chairperson said the Bill should provide entertainment and educational facilities in housing projects to deal with child headed households.

Mr Panday agreed with the statement that Housing Agencies should reinvest their profits for development of the houses. He said he was concerned that the Bill did not mention pensioners and disabled persons and that it did not clarify what was referred to as regular inspections.

Mr Mzizi said there were to be regulations for the Social Housing Agency to invoke and revoke decisions regarding housing services. He added that the regulations should be brought to the Committee.

The Chairperson said that no regulations had been made. He added that the issue of child headed households and children should be clarified. He said the Social Housing Agency had to be accountable for houses as public resources, and that the Committee would arrange oversight trips to check whether the houses were used for their rightful purposes.

Mr L Van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) supported oversight visits and reports to parliament. He said there had been no mandate from the Free State. He said that the Department should submit regulations as required before the next session.

Mr Panday said the Department of Housing should be attending to the matter of regulations..

Mr Mzizi said the Committee was not challenging the Department but just wanted to see the draft regulations before they entered the public domain.

Reverend Moatshe said he had never seen any regulations and emphasised that they should be submitted to the Committee.

Mr Tau said that regulations were sometimes not presented in parliament.

Housing Development Agency Bill: Department of Housing (DOH) Briefing
Ms Kwezi Ngwenya, Legal Advisor, DOH, and Mr Eugene Perumal, Programme Manager: Social Housing, DOH, briefed the Committee on the objectives of the Housing Development Agency Bill (the Bill). This established and described the objectives of the Housing Development Agency (HDA), which was primarily to identify and acquire land that would  then be developed and used for residential and community purposes. He said the HDA worked in collaboration with other State departments and institutions to fulfill its purpose.

Other functions of the Agency included interaction with the municipalities on incomplete projects and the upgrading of informal settlements, as well as dealing with housing solutions where the need arises. 

It was noted that the Agency could acquire land under certain circumstances, as described in the Bill and noted that it was envisaged that this could be land that was registered under the State or any State institution, if the registered owner was prepared to give it up for residential, community or developmental purposes. He said the Agency could also expropriate private land if it fell within the provisions of Sections 6 to 23 of the Expropriation Act, 1975. The functions and powers of the Agency were listed under clause 7 of the HDA Bill. He gave the Committee a briefing on the governing body of the Agency, as set out in Clause 9 of the Bill.

The Minister could intervene if there was lack of capacity in the Agency. The regulations governing the Agency and its dissolution were outlined. The clauses dealing with the limitation of liability and offences as well as penalties were highlighted. It was stated that other institutions might execute some functions of the Agency as there was provision for secondment of staff.

Mr van Rooyen said the Bill referred to expropriation of land, but commented that it was not clear who was going to expropriate the land.  He asked if the Agency expropriated land itself, and enquired how that related to the new Expropriation legislation before Parliament. He also asked who appointed the governing body.

Ms Ngwenya said land registered in the name of private owners  could expropriated in terms of the Expropriation Act . She added that the Minister of Public Works had the power to expropriate . She noted that appointment of the governing body was covered in clause 17 of the Bill.

Mr Mzizi asked what the functions of the Agency were . He said the Agency seemed to have strong powers that threatened the municipalities, adding that it was difficult to challenge it if approved by parliament.

Mr Perumal said the objective of the Department of Housing and therefore the Agency was to render assistance to government in the provision of Housing services. He said this was done through the acquisition of land for residential and community purposes.

Mr Mzizi asked about the secondment of staff mentioned in the Bill and enquired who was responsible for secondment and who would pay for the seconded staff.

Ms Ngwenya responded that secondment was done only after consultation with municipalities.

Mr Perumal added that the Agency could transfer staff through interdepartmental interaction, where the need arose, noting that salaries would be pro-rata

Mr Mzizi noted that the Agency was given a five year mandate and asked what would happen if it caused problems in that time, given the immense powers.

Mr Perumal said that the Minister had powers to close the Agency once its mandate had been fulfilled and that should problems arise the Minister could also take action to close it.

Several Members expressed concern about the Bill and about the fact that the Department had sent junior officials to do the briefing, who did not understand the Bill and were unable to answer all questions. The Committee felt that even after the briefing it was not well informed about the Bill and thus would not know what to tell the public if questions were raised. Municipalities and provincial departments did not participate in briefings and this was of further concern. There  were questions raised about the capacity of the proposed agency.
The meeting was adjourned.


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