White Paper on Human Settlements; Accreditation Framework for Municipalities to Administer National Housing Programmes; with Minister

Human Settlements

14 February 2024
Chairperson: Ms R Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

In Parliament, the Committee was briefed on a Draft White Paper for Human Settlements and on a revised framework for accrediting municipalities to administer national housing programmes.

The Committee was told that the White Paper process could be finalised by the end of April 2024, following widespread consultation. Issues identified in the process included the needs of senior citizens and child-headed households; gender-based violence, especially in the case of women who co-owned houses with their spouses; and the repossession of houses by banks when owners lost their jobs and income. There was a proposal to increase the household income criterion for an RDP house to R5 000.

There was a proposal to introduce a Human Settlement Ombud

Another was to shift powers from the Housing Development Agency to the Minister of Human Settlements. Members were told this would address misalignments in control over state land which created problems in releasing land for the development of human settlements.

The White Paper also dealt with expropriation of land for human settlement purposes. The focus would be on under-utilised land. It would bridge the spatial divide in urban areas so that the poor could be closer to economic opportunities.

The new policy sought to overhaul funding for infrastructure. It aimed to streamline budgets and harmonise projects of different departments.

Members were then briefed on a revised framework for accrediting municipalities to administer national housing projects.

Municipalities would be accredited for implementing a programme or mixture of programmes relevant to their capacity and needs. In terms of the new guidelines, municipalities should demonstrate good governance through regular executive and council meetings, have senior management in place, have the human resources to administer housing programmes and have positive audit outcomes.

The revised framework recognised secondary cities and intermediate city municipalities as important catalysts for more balanced and dispersed growth across the country. As alternative urban centres, they relieved pressure on the major cities.

The National Department of Human Settlements was responsible for ensuring that municipalities had adequate financial and non-financial resources to perform the administration of the national housing programmes for which they were accredited.

Members posed questions about the role of banks in housing provision, measures to deal with illegal occupation of land, and innovative approaches to developing human settlements.

Meeting report

Minister Opening remarks

Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi, Minister of Human Settlements, said drafting of the White Paper had begun the previous year. The Department received comments from the Committee. There were consultations with the SA Local Government Association (SALGA), sister departments, and the Minister and Members of the Executive Council (MINMEC). It was then submitted to Cabinet. Public comments would be invited. There were engagements with the Council of Traditional Leaders, and outreach visits were paid to the provinces of Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Gauteng. Many platforms were used in the provinces to reach many stakeholders. Academics in the sector would also be engaged. NGOs raised the issue of the January 2024 deadline; hence it was extended to February 2024. Another matter that arose was that of the use of the English language. Other languages would be considered.

The Minister noted that the matter of beneficiaries was raised strongly. Senior citizens would be prioritised. Child-headed households were an issue raised by young people who felt they had been discarded. There were issues of gender-based violence, especially where women were co-owners of houses with their spouses. They were asking for provision to be made for cases in which they separated from their husbands. The current policy stated that someone who had been a previous owner of property or piece of land did not qualify for an RDP house. Another matter raised was that daughters-in-law inherited nothing after divorces.

The policy would include the issue of providing emergency housing for 72 hours in terms of international standard practice. That covered foreign nationals as well.

Concerning the selling of RDP houses, she stated it was believed that the government had no say once the title deed had been given to the owner, but the legislation required that it could not be sold for some years. There was a need to find practical ways of implementing the policy around this matter.

The Minister said there were suggestions that there should be provisions for loss of income due to job losses and banks repossessing houses. In addition, the policy would try to provide alternative support in the area of rent-to-own. These were some things that came through as the policy was discussed with the public. The qualifying criterion on household earnings for an RDP house would be raised to R5 000.

The policy could be finalised by the end of April 2024 after processes have been followed. The public was encouraged to send comments so that they could be incorporated into the White Paper process.

White Paper on Human Settlements

Dr Alec Moemi, Director General (DG), Department of Human Settlements (DHS), touched on key issues of the policy. He said the timelines for the written comments on the policy were extended until the end of February 2024. There would be amendments to the current legislation to achieve what the trajectory of the new policy seemed to suggest. Challenges and weaknesses that affected the housing sector were identified. One of the proposals was to introduce a Human Settlements Ombud. This would make it easy for the public to lodge complaints.

The Department was open to amendments to Sections 10A and 10B of the Housing Act. It would make it easy to transfer properties of the state into the private hands of beneficiaries. This would economically empower the beneficiaries and give them power to exercise their economic rights enshrined in the Constitution. This matter would be considered and balanced between what was originally intended and the current experiences of beneficiaries.

Consideration was being given to shifting powers from the Housing Development Agency (HDA) to the Minister due to current disjunctures and misalignment, particularly around the acquisition of land to be released for projects. The process was difficult because of the way the government was structured. The Department of Public Works (DPW) was the custodian of the immovable property or land of the state. The current provisions that land could be acquired by the HDA for human settlement development had created a nightmare from a practical point of view. The policy sought to address this because, in terms of the law, it was the Minister who declared priority areas for human settlement development. Therefore, the Minister had the right to release land for human settlement projects. This would make it easier for the Minister to

acquire land from the DPW for human settlement. The HDA would continue to play its important role as the developer of choice for government.

The Department was looking at the issue of expropriation of land for human settlement purposes. The focus would be on under-utilised land suitable for human settlement. This would also bridge the spatial divide in urban areas so that the poor could be closer to economic opportunities.

They were also looking at infrastructure funding. The Department’s mandate was human settlement but it was funded as the housing department. The policy sought to reconfigure the human settlement funding landscape This included streamlining the budget; syndication and harmonisation of projects between the DHS and other departments it was dependent on; and following the district development model.

These were some of the key issues the White Paper was presenting. The DHS is currently looking at international benchmarking to compare itself with other countries.

Presentation: Draft White Paper for Human Settlements

Dr Nana Mhlongo, Deputy Director-General: Policy, Strategy and Planning, DHS, said the strategic focus of the White Paper took into consideration the programmes and priorities of government, and was aligned with the existing macro policies. The sector underwent fundamental policy, legislation and structural reforms in the past twenty years. The macro-planning environment had significant changes. As a result, the state revisited the manner in which delivery targets were developed and responsibilities were assigned. The right of access to adequate housing covered measures that were needed to prevent homelessness, prohibit forced evictions, address discrimination, and focus on the most vulnerable and marginalised groups.

The Draft White Paper policy sought to address the prevailing gaps and inconsistencies in the housing and human settlements sector. It further sought to respond comprehensively to contemporary local and international reforms; to respond adequately to integrated planning strategies; amplify the role of the private sector; improve the public environment; and provide for requisite institutional capacity and active citizen participation.

The key objectives of the policy were to promote alignment in development planning, while progressively developing governance and administrative capacity through sustainable human settlements delivery approaches; to address gaps in programme design and regulatory inconsistencies; to reconcile policy with international treaties and declarations; to harness innovative and transformative approaches in the creation of human settlements; and to promote human settlements systems that functioned as a whole.

Dr Mhlongo said the policy prioritised the allocation of subsidies based on transparent and objective criteria. The emphasis was on meeting statutory standards including safety, durability, and liveability. Adequate funding and a variety of support options would be allocated as subsidy instruments to address the financial burden on low-income households.

The policy was aimed at responding to the macro-planning environment, including roles, responsibilities and functions of different spheres of government; to recalibrate the grant funding frameworks to optimise performance of existing grant instruments; and to inform the amendment of the Housing Act and provide rationale for the new Human Settlements Development Act.

Key policy proposals aimed to engage beneficiaries in decision-making processes to foster a sense of ownership and empowerment. They aimed to upgrade informal settlements; to ensure that human settlement projects were contained within the urban edge of development nodes and strategic locations along the development corridors; and to consider cost-effective construction methods, building materials and technological advancements such as a digitised housing needs register and systems for a swift response to emergencies and disasters. The emphasis would be on settlement design principles that produced safe, liveable, and inclusive spaces.

Regarding strategic engagements, targeted consultative sessions were held with SALGA, the Council for the Built Environment (CBE), National Treasury, civil society and the South African Cities Network. All provinces had identified key stakeholders and scheduled consultative sessions. The White Paper Technical Working Group would comprise, among others, the DHS entities, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), SALGA, and the Department of Transport (DoT). Preliminary written inputs were received from various stakeholders. The document was available on the DHS website, the Urban Knowledge Exchange of South Africa, Dear SA, Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. Roadshows with provinces and metros were in progress.

See attached for full presentation

Revised Municipal Accreditation Framework

Mr Miyelani Ntlemo, Director: Accreditation Frameworks, DHS, made a presentation on the revised accreditation framework for municipalities to administer national housing programmes. He said there were six thrusts:

Thrust 1: Programme based Incremental approach

Municipalities were to be accredited for implementing a programme or mixture of programmes relevant to their capacity and priority needs. The decision on what national housing programmes to accredit a municipality for would be linked to the Human Settlements Sector Plan (HSSP) of the municipality. A municipality must analyse its local housing demand, and then identify the relevant national housing programmes that would assist in addressing this demand. The capacity of a municipality would also determine the range of national housing programmes that the municipality may include within its HSSP. Accreditation was directly linked to the national housing programmes the municipality requested to administer as part of its HSSP.

Thrust 2: Role of Intermediate City Municipalities

Secondary cities and Intermediate City Municipalities were seen as important catalysts for more balanced and dispersed growth across the country. As alternative urban centres, they relieved pressure on the prime cities. Secondary cities and intermediate city municipalities are seen today as the principal drivers of global economic growth, with the fastest population and economic growth. Intermediate City Municipalities in the country were experiencing challenges such as inadequate capacity to manage rapid urbanisation which resulted in mushrooming of informal settlements; inadequate and ageing infrastructure; and limited sources of revenue.

It was imperative that the Intermediate City Municipalities be prioritised, capacitated, funded, supported and accredited to successfully undertake human settlements programmes. Two intervention mechanisms were proposed: an accreditation drive for Intermediate Cities and a capacity support programme.

Thrust 3: Streamlined accreditation process

Accreditation Level One involved subsidy budget planning; submission of identified housing projects and programmes to the MEC for approval; beneficiary management; housing subsidy registration; subsidy management; and accreditation reporting and document management.

Accreditation Level Two (2) involved all of the above as well as procurement and appointment of implementing agents; project management; contract administration; technical quality assurance; and budget management.

A municipality should demonstrate good governance through regular executive and council meetings; the appointment of senior management; low staff vacancy rates; internal audit capacity; and positive audit outcomes. There should be a human settlements unit and the human resources to administer housing programmes. Municipalities should demonstrate capacity to manage budgets by operating a legally compliant financial management system.

Thrust 4: Financial resourcing

It was critical that a Human Settlements Sector Plan contained a budgetary requirement component over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period. The accrediting authority must provide adequate capital grants and operational funding for the municipality to perform. The Human Settlements Development Grant (HSDG) was the primary grant addressing access to adequate housing. The Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) and Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) were linked  to the provision of basic services. The Informal Settlements Upgrading Grant (ISUPG) addressed informal settlements.

Thrust 5: Strengthening provincial and municipal accreditation capacity

Capacitation of accreditation units at provincial department level should be prioritised. The national DHS Human Settlements Accreditation Unit was responsible for putting in place monitoring and support systems for provinces and municipalities. The Department was responsible for ensuring that municipalities received adequate financial and non-financial resources to perform the administration of the national housing programmes for which they had been accredited.

Thrust 6: Accountability

The roles and responsibilities of the three spheres of government changed depending on the level of accreditation achieved by a particular municipality. For non-accredited municipalities, housing subsidy funding was allocated to the provincial departments by the national DHS on the basis of a formula in the annual Division of Revenue Act (DORA).

The Minister monitored the performance of provinces and municipalities against housing delivery and budget goals. The MEC was required to monitor municipalities and to obtain reports from municipalities on the administration of national housing programmes. The following conditions would provide grounds for the MEC to consider withdrawal of accreditation from a municipality:

  • Consistent failure to meet agreed targets on delivery and expenditure stipulated in the implementation protocols.
  • Consistent failure to comply with reporting, policy, and legislative requirements.
  • Regress or failure to capacitate the human settlements unit as per the accreditation business plan.
  • Mismanagement and misuse of the grants allocated to the municipality.
  • When Section 139 Intervention was Invoked.

See attached for full presentation


Ms M Makesini (EFF) said she welcomed the intention to deal with challenges outlined by the Minister in her introductory remarks, even though the Department had not consulted the general public but only traditional leaders. She further welcomed the efforts of the Department to engage with the banks because banks were operating in their own way. She stated that the emergency housing process was not strictly monitored. It must be strictly for 72 hours. Citizens need to be protected during floods. She was happy that the issue of beneficiaries was brought up and suggested it should be well coordinated.

The DG, Dr Moemi, said they had consulted widely and taken things to heart by listening to NGOs and other stakeholders. They wanted a substantive public participation process. Deadlines for written comments were extended and they doubled the level of participation. The Portfolio Committee should advise on other stakeholders with whom the Department should engage. The Department had been proactive in inviting people to comment on the White Paper, and bilateral talks were held with other departments to ensure this policy was successful.


Mr L Mphithi (DA) remarked that a statement by the Minister that “the Constitution provides a right for shelter but that should not be done by government” was not acceptable for this White Paper.

Regarding relocation being the last resort, he stated the document was weak on the unlawful occupation of land. It needed to be stronger because illegal occupation had affected property rights. He said it had been a challenge to try to regulate backyard housing because it provided income for some families. It was important to consider how this should be regulated, because most of these houses were not made from brick and mortar.

On the shifting of powers from the HDA to the Minister to identify available land, he said politicians had the ability to do things wrongly. He sought an explanation of why this was proposed and what challenges were faced by the HDA for these powers to be given to the Minister.

He welcomed the point raised by the White Paper about beneficiaries.

Concerning the unavailability of land and the upgrading and selling of RDP houses, he pointed out this was happening in communities and did not need to be regulated. However, it appeared that people with RDP houses were getting more houses while the needy had nothing.

Dr Moemi said they had never supported illegal occupations and would be firm about it. Where the state had failed to prevent illegal occupation within 48 hours, it had an obligation to find the invaders new accommodation. However, the issue here was to prevent illegal occupation of land unsuitable for human habitation. In some instances, people had illegally occupied land suitable for human habitation and were allowed to settle. The aim now was to support development where they were staying and, in that way, inadvertently support illegal occupation.

Dr N Khumalo (DA) welcomed the intent of the White Paper, but pointed out that it did not make a statement on the rental approach. She wanted to know what the stance of the policy was in managing rental stock.

She remarked that there were challenges in informal settlements such as structures being built in wetlands and uninhabitable areas, and the law did not allow the properties of people to be taken away or removed.

She asked how rent to buy was linked to the vision of the Department if it were to happen, because it was looking lucrative and she was unsure if it would be beneficial for the Department.

She enquired if the use of alternative building material was considered seeing that construction companies kept on increasing the quantum every year and this delayed construction.

The issue of beneficiaries had been discussed many times and the points addressed by the Minister were welcomed, including emergency housing that also catered for illegal immigrants.

Dr Moemi said the policy allowed alternative building technologies. The Department was looking at every accredited proposal. Everything was driven by the budget. It was a matter of cost-benefit analysis.

Mr B Herron (GOOD) commented that the housing programme should be overhauled because the current one was not working. The White Paper was about reducing the right to housing instead of enhancing it. There had been many concerns about consultation. Adequate housing had to include access to land. The idea that adequate housing was access to land would not meet what the Constitution said. The right to housing was not a welfare issue but was enshrined in the Constitution

A decade ago, a built environment performance plan was designed, but this process had been abandoned and not included in the current White Paper process. There was misalignment between national priorities and those of the provinces and municipalities. The grant funding could address this


challenge. To say a piece of land was adequate for housing would not meet the requirements of the Constitution.

Regarding unlawful occupation, he said the focus should be on rising urbanisation in South Africa instead of clamping down on unlawful occupation of land. This was caused by lack of planning for urbanisation.

On misalignment of priorities, Dr Moemi said that if they relied on the grant framework, only 33 municipalities were accredited or allowed to deliver houses to the Department. The framework was being revised. There was no mechanism to force the municipalities to work with the Department. He pointed out that beneficiaries were an important issue for the Department. The online Human Settlements System (HSS) had its own limitations and was archaic. Technology has moved so fast. Before the end of the year, the Department would have a system that had answers at its fingertips.

Mr M Tseki (ANC) commented that the Committee needed to engage with its legal team to seek advice on the challenges it met during oversight visits. Increasing the RDP qualifying criteria from R3 500 to R5 000 was another issue that needed to be discussed. He enquired if minors owning houses should continue to benefit from the ownership. He remarked that most municipalities were doing nothing about the invasion of land to build beautiful houses. He asked if the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) could be taken as a partner, because it was building houses for people who qualified.

What was the future of hostels? The issue was not to do away with them but to make them livable. There were now taverns and illegal businesses operating in hostels.

More research needs to be done on selling RDP houses to determine who was occupying these houses. What would happen in cases where there had been divorce and one partner died and the other came back to claim the house? He urged the Committee to think deeply about cases where houses with graves were being sold, especially in rural areas, because that would disturb the peace of mind of the ancestors and they would not allow the buyer to stay in the house.

Dr Z Mkhize (ANC) said there was a need to pick up lessons learnt over the past 30 years. On the HDA powers given to the Minister, he said there was a need to be careful. There had to be a role for the Minister to balance technical and administrative issues.

Regarding the matter of human rights, it was important to look at the availability of resources and provide what was possible. Opportunities need to be created to address backlogs. There was a need to encourage programmes where communities could build houses as this was an empowering approach, instead of asking the private sector.

With regard to the elimination of shacks, it was important to understand the dynamics. The Department needed to communicate with municipalities because it appeared there was a lot of land allocated for building shacks. People usually located themselves where there was economic activity. Municipalities should be involved in this. The matter of integration was very important and the Committee needed to demand that every city must indicate available land.

The country did not have an aggressive approach involving public and private partnerships. When it came to rural housing, strong work relations were needed between provinces, national government and municipalities, because people had been building houses in the wrong places. The three spheres of government should work together to make sites available to curb land invasions.

Reformulation of township housing was something to be considered. Private banks were interested in converting housing into blocks of flats, because there was enough space going up. The issue of temporary and permanent homes should be considered.

Dr Moemi said the Department was not dogmatic about shifting powers to the Minister from the HDA. What was important was how the powers were exercised. There was no wholesale removal of powers from the HDA. It was important for the Minister to be given powers over the immovable properties


of the Department. This move would resolve backlogs and empower them more. This was all about practicality.

Adv M Masutha (ANC) commented that the historical account in the White Paper should also give an account of how white privilege was rolled out when it came to housing. It must not only focus on the black evolution. It was important to record black exclusion since 1913 so that in dealing with matters after 1994, there was a comprehensive story.

Pertaining to lawlessness, the government determined the policies for the state. You could not build a developmental state hinged on lawlessness. There was a problem of land hunger dating back to 1913. It was a fallacy to say you could not give people land for building houses. It might happen that most people did not need a RDP house, but wanted to build their own homes, irrespective of where the money came from. As title deeds were issued, people should be taught not to sell that piece of land illegally but to follow legal processes.

The Chairperson urged caution on taking powers from the HDA to the Minister. Its purpose was still to become a developer of choice for the government. It had to be capacitated to assist in transforming the property sector. In terms of the housing code, the Minister could intervene and prescribe in terms of the housing policy. There was a need to strike a balance and not kill the HDA. On land invasions, there was a need to interrogate municipal laws and things like the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act.

Due to time constraints, the Chairperson requested the Department to respond in writing to further questions by Members.

Mr Tseki urged Members to note the status of municipalities and provinces because conditional grants were allocated every year and challenges presented themselves every year. He said the criteria were lacking and the performance of the municipality, financially and otherwise, could not be seen. He asked the Department to be specific on the criteria. The general performance of the municipality should be included in the criteria.

Adv Masutha said responsibility for the capacity of a municipality was ultimately shared between the three spheres of government. If the municipality was not accredited, it was the responsibility of the province and Department to ensure that communities in that municipality were serviced. There was a need to understand the developmental strategy in rural areas, especially when looking at the role of the Department. On spatial integration, there was a need to get politics right and put things in context.

Ms Makesini pointed out that Ekurhuleni Municipality was at Level 2 and not accredited. There were municipalities that were accredited but did not meet the criteria. She wanted to understand what was being done about municipalities that were giving the Department serious problems.

Dr Mkhize asked if accrediting district municipalities to handle human settlements would assist in building capacity.

The Chairperson asked how accreditation would provide the Department with information in resolving matters concerning conditional grants.

The meeting was adjourned.

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