21 February 2017

South Africa: Committee Urges Speed in Approving Restructuring Zones for Social Housing


Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements is concerned that the slow pace of identifying and approving areas for "restructuring zones" and social housing, will impact negatively on the targets of the National Development Plan (NDP), of transforming human settlements and ensuring economic integration by the year 2030.

Today (Tuesday, 21 February), the Portfolio Committee met with the Department of Human Settlements and two entities - the Social Housing Regulatory Agency (SHRA) and the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) - to discuss important housing delivery matters and turn-around strategies in dealing with irregular expenditure.

Committee Chairperson Ms Nocawe Mafu said the current pace of approving restructuring zones was cause for concern, and appealed to the department to move "a little bit faster".

"How are we going to meet the NDP target if we not going to have any new restructuring zones approved and it takes long to gazette and approve more zones. I think there is more that we can do. We are not fast enough," she said.

She also advised the department and its entities to ensure that the social housing programme was spread to all areas, saying "We can't have concentration or monopoly of investments in one area."

In a presentation to the Portfolio Committee, the Department's Acting Deputy Director-General: Programme Management Unit, Mr Johan Wallis, said the primary objectives of the social housing programme were "to contribute to the national priority of restructuring South African society in order to address structural, economic, social and spatial dysfunctionalities and thereby contribute to Government's vision of an economically empowered, non-racial, and integrated society living in sustainable human settlements.

"Secondly, to improve and contribute to the overall functioning of the housing sector and, in particular, the rental sub-component thereof, especially insofar as social housing is able to contribute to widening the range of housing options available to the poor," said Mr Wallis.

He further told the committee that there were a number of towns and areas that provinces and municipalities have identified and proposed, as additional restructuring zones for expansion of the social housing programme.

The consultation process with the provinces and municipalities on their identified proposed restructuring zones was undertaken as a team effort consisting of officials from the department, the SHRA, the Housing Development Agency and the South African Local Government Association.

Committee Member Mr Humphrey Mmemezi agreed with the Chairperson on the slow progress. "My area of concern is the pace of transformation. When we talk transformation it must not be a theory. We must see it and that means extending the cake for everyone to get a share. Let's move a bit faster, this process is taking too long."

He also warned the department and its entities not to make a norm of the practice of "regularising irregular expenditure".

On its website the SHRA says: "Restructuring zones are intended as an instrument (among others) to pursue restructuring of South African cities, this is essentially about integration: economic, racial and social. Restructuring is largely about moving away from housing interventions that entrench/enforce or in any way maintain the spatial status quo, which reinforces certain social and economic disparities.

"Restructuring is thus intimately linked to interventions in the land market: either to protect lower income (and often black) people from displacement or to bring lower income (often black) into areas of economic and other forms of opportunity from which they would otherwise be excluded. This is perhaps the most important meaning of restructuring."

According to the NDP: "By the year 2030, most South Africans will have affordable access to services and quality developments. New developments will break away from old patterns and significant progress will be made in retrofitting existing settlements. In rural areas, targeted investment and institutional reform will drive a revival of rural South Africa towards 2050."

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