South Africa: Urgent Policy Reforms Are Needed to Break the Social Housing Backlog

analysis

The provision of accessible public land will make or break the expanded social housing programme. Releasing strategically located public land parcels for social housing would send a powerful signal that the government is serious about urban integration.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's hopes of delivering 37,000 new social housing units are likely to be dashed unless the current policy is reformed. The previous target to build 27,000 units between 2014 and 2019 fell short by almost 50%.

The country cannot afford such poor performance, given the imperative to build more better-located, higher-density rental housing in cities. The social housing programme is one of the few policy instruments available to promote economic and social inclusion, and integration. Yet it currently receives only 2% of the overall human settlements budget.

Improving the provision of affordable housing is not just a matter of spending more and speeding up the rate of development. At least three major reforms are needed if social housing is to achieve its potential for upward income mobility and spatial transformation.

First, over the years, the government has failed to link the value of social housing subsidies to inflation in the building industry. As a result, the real value of financial support...

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