Western Cape struggles to tackle growing housing backlog

Housing - Western Cape Source: Google Images

Housing continues to be a major problem for the Western Cape, with nearly 600 000 applicants waiting for houses in the province.

In January, Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers revealed there were 595 232 applicants on the Housing Demand Database, 369 542 in the metro and 225 690 applicants outside of the metro.

The MEC said in the allocation of opportunities, the department “prioritises the most vulnerable – for example the elderly, people living with verified disabilities, those longest on the housing demand database, 15 years and longer, and backyard dwellers”.

The province also made a point of noting it was “the first provincial government to officially include backyard dwellers into our list of priority groups”.

The Western Cape Department of Human Settlements delivered 16 217 houses in the 2019/20 financial year, 20 040 in the 2018/19 financial year and 19 985 in the 2017/18 financial year.

2017/18

2018/19

2019/20

Working off of this figure from January, and giving the province the benefit of the doubt of delivering about 20 000 houses a year, this would mean it would optimistically take 30 years for the province to deliver houses to all the metro applicants alone.

This is not, however, taking into consideration the people who are migrating into the province, and those who would have died while waiting for their houses.

According to Simmers, more than 20 000 applicants over the age of 60 in the metro have been waiting for over 10 years to receive houses.

GOOD party secretary-general Brett Herron said housing was in a crisis and the provincial government lacked the leadership and courage to do what was necessary to turn the situation around.

“The crisis has multiple aspects: the slow pace of delivery of housing, the poor quality of the housing and the remote location of the housing.

“This means that even a free house is not necessarily an affordable house as our provincial government dumps people in poor quality housing far away from everything and creating massive suburbs of poverty.

“In the first place, if the provincial government wants to resolve the housing crisis then it will need to do more than simply implement the national housing programme at the pace, and within the constraints, of the housing grant funding allocated to the province.”

He said the delivery of houses in the Western Cape was far from enough, and the response from the province was “lazy and unimaginative”.

Simmers explained the province was tackling the growing housing backlog by providing access to houses through various subsidies and programmes, with the available budget it had. This includes the upgrading of informal settlements.

“To get rid of the current and increasing backlog, a much bigger budget will be required than what is available to the Western Cape, previously estimated at approximately R60 billion.

“Therefore, with available budget, the department maximises its resources to provide opportunities where the most vulnerable are prioritised.”

He explained that in informal settlements, the Human Settlements Department endeavoured to upgrade and provide access to basic services.

Simmers said the minimal budget and increased migration to the Western Cape added to the challenge of delivering houses.

Herron stated: “Provincial government relapses to blaming national government for lack of funding or lack of access to land. But if the provincial government really wanted to turn housing delivery around it could and would do so despite national government.

“The provincial government has access to its own funding and it has access to public land it has complete discretion over. It chooses not to invest its funding in housing and it chooses to sell off its well located land rather than use it for housing.”

Herron explained it came down to the province making a better choice for funding allocations and changing its attitude towards public land.

“Unless the provincial government chooses to add funding to housing delivery, and to use public land under their control to leverage affordable housing development in partnership with the private sector and the social housing companies, the crisis will continue to get worse.

“The provincial government is leading us into a state of social and economic conflict and disaster because they do not see that our collective prosperity will be achieved only if we address our spatial and housing injustice.”

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