Shelter and Services

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What have been the results from shifting from developer to PHP housing? A related comment was that the PHP has to be marketed, as it is competing with the developer-driven process. The reply was the developers tend to undermine the PHP, saying it is not working. The outcome must be defined around the process.
A comment was made from Namibia, that in most African countries housing is a local government competency. It is decentralised, but not accompanied with the necessary resources. In the African context, very few states provide subsidies. It would be interesting to know what it the underlying motif for subsidies in South Africa.

Suitability for the book

The paper at the conference was in a power-point format, therefore obviously still needing writing-up for a chapter. It would be interesting for this to be a chapter that stands in dialogue with the earlier paper by Richard Martin. It could mention which aspects of the Zambian process have been incorporated in the PHP in South Africa, and which ideas can still be incorporated (or if they can’t, explain why, with references to the challenges mentioned in the presentation). To be contextualised in Africa, it should refer to the uniqueness of the subsidy system, and its roles as well as challenges/limitations. The paper should refer to the recent review document by Ted Bauman conducted for the PHP Trust, and if possible also discuss important shifts that are suggested there/in the entire review process, and whether they are likely to be incorporated into the policy.

    1. Social housing – Ronalda Fisher (CEO: Greater Germiston Inner City Housing Cooperation)

Social housing is defined as good quality subsidised housing managed by independent institutions, through participatory approaches, with a range of tenure approaches excluding immediate individual ownership. In South Africa 30 000 social housing units have been delivered to date. 59 Housing Associations have been established, although some of these do not yet have housing stock.

Challenges for the social housing sector are 1) that it is difficult to find an appropriate financial framework, 2) the problem that the PIE Act has been applied to rental housing, making evictions difficult, and 3) that legislation is not applied uniformly. Also, there is a low awareness of social housing, and confusion between social housing, rental housing and low cost housing. On the topic of HIV/AIDS there is no policy on what happens when a breadwinner in a social housing unit dies and the children are left on their own.
On the management side, besides the challenge of funding people with the right capacity, a challenge is that off-the-shelf management systems first have to be customised. Another challenge is that social housing institutions tend to compete, not collaborate. Coordination is also needed between different tiers of government, and there is a need for public-private partnerships. There is an attempt to bring in the banks. However, banks perceive social housing to have management problems. There is also an issue of slum lords taking over social housing institutions.
Lessons have been that social housing is a slow delivery mechanism. It needs to be asked whether the current approach is still realistic. How does one capture the experience that has been gained? There is a need for a demand-driven approach, but the demand in this income bracket is for ownership.


Mention was made of housing cooperatives in Zimbabwe (more on this in the next presentation).
Another comment was the need to clarify the difference between social housing and low cost housing.
A comment from the Banking Council was appreciation of the insights of practitioners. The reply was that there is a need for a carrot and stick approach to make the banks lend in this sector. The other problem is that while the subsidies have increased, the subsidy bands have not, meaning that people that in real terms would have qualified for social housing a few years ago no longer do, due to inflation.

Suitability for the book

There were technical problems with the power-point, so the speaker possibly did not present the entire paper. I did not manage to get a copy of the power-point, so my comments are based merely on what was presented. To stand as a book chapter, this would need quite a lot of deepening, rather than being a list of challenges. One would want social housing to be contextualised both within housing policy in South Africa, and in comparison to other African countries. If the chapter number is limited, I would tend not to include this as a chapter.

    1. Backyard rental in Soweto – Owen Crankshaw (Professor: Department of Sociology, University of Cape Town)

Back yard shacks have their origin in the housing shortages of the 1980s, with pressure to rent out back yard space. In 1997 there were on average 1.5 back yard shacks per stand. 20% of all Soweto residents lived in back yard shacks. Soweto was given electricity in the late 1980s, and now most back yard shacks have precarious links to the owners’ electricity connections.

The following policy question emerge: should back yard shacks be seen as a sign of housing shortage, which should be eradicated; or is it a form of housing that can be improved, as a percentage of the population will always be wanting to rent, and thus giving some relief to the housing shortage?
In the census figures 1996 versus 2001, there is an increase in formal houses by 300 000, but an increase of shacks by 100 000. There is some reluctance in official circles to accept the permanence of back yard shacks. Are they opposed because these units are inferior in construction, or because they are rental?
Why is rental a good thing? There are temporary needs of migrants, possibly owning elsewhere. Return migration is not unique to South Africa. There are also the recently urbanised, those not eligible for the subsidy (foreigners and the elderly), and those preferring back yard shacks due to the location. The rent benefits the owner. In this study, most landowners rented out because they needed the income.
However, there are problems with back yard accommodation, relating to poor construction, scarcity of floors and windows. This is because the owners don’t construct, and the renters have no incentive to invest. Financial assistance to landlords might entice them to construct good quality back yard rooms. There are also dangers related to precarious electricity connections. Here the government could formally connect the back yard shacks. A further problem is that refuse is collected only from the owner’s dwelling, necessitating the tenants to dump their refuse. Here the local authorities have to recognise the real demand for refuse collection.

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