Addressing the Housing Backlog in South Africa

governance housing service delivery urbanisation
Friday, 11 October, 2013 - 14:21

This article highlight the challenges faced by government in providing sufficient housing for citizens and the benefit of PPPs in addressing the backlog

While urbanisation has many benefits for a country’s population, it increases the burden on government to provide key social services such as adequate housing and shelter, running water and sanitation. Recent research by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) shows that the proportion of people living in urban areas increased from 52 percent in 1990 to 62 percent in 2012.
 
According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the number of households living in informal settlements increased from 52.9 percent in 2002 to 54.5 percent in 2012. As the province accommodating the biggest and fastest growing population in the country, Gauteng is particularly affected by urbanisation, with rates sitting at 96 percent followed by the Western Cape at 90 percent and KwaZulu-Natal with a level of urbanisation of 45 percent, while South Africa’s population grew by 15.5 percent (almost seven million people) in the same time. According to Stats SA, Africa’s rate of urbanisation is expected to overtake Asia’s by 2030.
 
So what does this all mean for us?
 
Although the government built over three million homes between 1994 and June 2011, a backlog of 2.1 million units still exist, leaving many South Africans with few opportunities to live in their own home.
 
The Public Private Partnership (PPP) framework in South Africa offers a viable solution to these challenges. Defined by South African law, PPP is a contract between a public sector institution or municipality and private party, where the private party assumes substantial financial, technical and operational risk in the design, financing, building and operation of the project. It should not be considered outsourcing or commercialisation of public function, and nor is it a donation by a private party. United Nations Habitat explains that, the PPP model has been used successfully around the world to create affordable, sustainable housing.  According to PPP consultants, Levinsohn and Associates, South Africa boasts one of the most developed PPP legal frameworks in the Southern Africa region (SADC).
 
However, it is important to be aware of the difficulties that this form of partnership can present. These include contradictory goals of the various parties’ involved, public resistance, capacity challenges, financing issues and environmental disputes. The partnerships typically involve not only a public authority and a private partner which is responsible for the delivery of the project, but also third parties such as lenders, investors or nonprofit organisations.
 
To date, there have been many successful PPP initiatives in South Africa with particular focus on sectors where critical infrastructure needs exist such as health, sanitation and housing. One such initiative that has been making an impact since 2010 is the partnership between the National Department of Human Settlements, the Mellon Housing Initiative and Standard Bank. This partnership has built over 60 houses across Gauteng and the Western Cape. The work is done in collaboration with Mellon Housing, a nonprofit organisation which partners with government to create sustainable human settlements. They bring building experts to the table, who not only ensure that all the work done on the houses meets their stringent quality standards, but who also pass on their skills to the members of the community. What makes this project unique is that not only does Standard Bank provide capital for the buildings, but the houses themselves are being built by Standard Bank employee volunteers.
 
For Ntombozuko Mahlombe the move into her new brick house in Khayelitsha, which she received through the project in 2012, was nothing short of life-changing. As a mother with a young, disabled child, sharing communal ablution facilities, the safety of her daughter was cause for concern.
 
“Before, my daughter really struggled a lot when we were living in the shack, now, if she wants to get into the bathroom, the door easily slides open and she can get to the basin,” explains Mahlombe.
 
“I cannot begin to express how I feel about the fact that I have a new house.  If you do not have a place to live, your dignity as person is affected,” she concludes.
 
- This article was prepared by Kaelo Engage, a Johannesburg-based content creation agency. For more information contact, Mandisa Mbenenge, Tel: 011 303 7027, E-mail: mandisa@kaeloengage.com

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