Cape Town -
Housing is always a hotly contested election issue, but it is especially so in the Western Cape where protests about access to housing opportunities and the basic services that come with these have become widespread.
The ANC and the DA have reminded voters about their housing delivery statistics in the “good stories” they want to tell before the nation votes next Wednesday.
Independent organisation Africa Check analysed some of the figures supplied recently by the National Department of Human Settlements, and found that they did add up.
The department said that in the Western Cape, between 1994 and 1998, an average of 17 925 houses were provided each year. This dropped to an average of 13 518 houses each year since the DA took over the province in 2009. But the figures also showed that there was a similar drop in other provinces where the ANC was in power.
Africa Check noted that this was partly because provinces moved towards providing serviced sites, or pieces of land with access to basic services, rather than houses.
According to the State of Environment Outlook Report for the Western Cape, released last year, the number of houses built in the province had decreased from 12 000 in the City of Cape Town in 2005/2006 to almost 6 000 in the 2011/2012 financial year.
There was a drop in the number of houses built in other municipalities too. The report noted that the number of sites serviced had also declined since the period between 2004 and 2008. This was attributed to limited budget availability, delays in the planning processes and allocations of funds for top structures and infrastructure.
One of the outlooks highlighted was that the housing backlog was increasing, given the increase in population numbers. In 2001, 16 percent of households were in informal dwellings. In 2011, this had increased to just over 18 percent.
While there was no clear majority party in power before 2009, a period of floor-crossing in 2005 enabled the New National Party and the ANC to merge. The province was previously in the hands of the New National Party and the Democratic Party.
When Ebrahim Rasool became premier, he listed housing as one of the ANC administration’s key performance targets. He promised that his government would address the housing backlog “from the Joe Slovo settlement to the backyards of Mitchells Plain and Langa”.
The housing backlog was not a problem of the ANC’s making, Rasool contended. He said the province would spend R1.2 billion a year on housing from 2007 to 2009.
One of the biggest blots on his administration’s housing delivery record was the N2 Gateway project. Led by the national government, this intergovernmental initiative failed to provide the 22 000 housing units within the time frames promised.
During the ANC’s time in office, the DA accused it of failing to provide sufficient housing and put the backlog at 400 000 units.
But the ANC has managed to deliver 164 033 housing opportunities since 2004, compared with the DA/NNP government that over 10 years had delivered only 3 099 housing opportunities.
In 2009, the DA won the majority vote, enabling it to wrest control from the ANC. This meant that the city, led by the DA since 2006, and the province were both being run by the DA. The party said then that the ANC’s housing policy “which had focused almost entirely on formally constructed housing” would only ever reach a “handful of people in need”.
The DA said it would therefore move away from this approach to give more housing options to more people.
“Access to land first, and basic services second, are immediate priorities,” was the party’s approach to housing.
Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela said during the annual budget speech last month that from April 2009 to March last year, 53 758 houses and 40 470 sites would have been provided in the province.
He said R166.3 million had been spent on individual subsidies since 2009, creating more than 2 300 new housing opportunities.
Unrealistic targets, mismanagement and shoddy workmanship are among the challenges that have dogged the N2 Gateway housing project. Launched in 2005, the flagship national government housing project promised to provide 22 000 houses in 12 months. It was supposed to be an example of intergovernmental co-operation, with all three spheres working together to provide fully subsidised, rental and bonded housing.
But by 2006, the national government had stripped the DA-led City of Cape Town of its involvement in the project and appointed the Housing Development Agency to take over its management. The city refused to take on the outstanding tab of R200m for overrun costs and claims by contractors for payment delays.
Three years later, a local non-profit organisation called for a full investigation of those involved in the project. It alleged that all three levels of government were guilty of poor planning and mismanagement. There were also concerns about the housing allocation, the selling of houses illegally and various housing committees vying for power in the community.
By 2009, only 11 800 housing units were complete. The numbers have not improved much since then, but the provincial Department of Human Settlements said in February that a target of 14 172 houses near the N2 would be ready by next year.
The provincial government has also hired mediators to resolve tension in the community so that construction can continue.
According to the Housing Development Agency website, 668 fully subsidised houses have been built in New Rest. The project is not yet complete. Delft Symphony is divided into various precincts with fully subsidised and bonded units. The project has delivered 4 228 fully subsidised houses and 351 bonded houses. In Delft Symphony 3 and 5, construction is under way on 1 911 houses. The 4 491 houses in Delft 7-9 were handed over last year. Work in Boystown was reportedly at a standstill in January, because of community discussions. But 503 of the 1 392 houses have been handed over. About 400 houses are expected to be delivered in Joe Slovo during this year.
In 2007, the DA-led City of Cape Town set up a temporary relocation area (TRA) near Delft for people displaced from Joe Slovo and other informal settlements. Families who invaded unfinished units at the N2 Gateway housing project were also relocated to Blikkiesdorp. It was supposed to be a short-term housing solution. But many of the people who were moved into the corrugated iron units that crisscross the sandy terrain of Delft have been living in this “camp” for eight years.
In 2011, the city’s director of housing said it would take three to five years to find permanent housing solutions for the 6 000-odd people living at the site. Tandeka Gqada, mayoral committee member for human settlements, told the Cape Argus this week that the site, with its 1 750 corrugated iron structures, would be maintained as a TRA for the time being.
So far, 33 families have been moved out of Blikkiesdorp to new housing opportunities, with a further 55 families being identified for a new housing project called Eindhofen.
“There are no plans to develop formal housing in Blikkiesdorp’s current location,” Gqada said.