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By Anel Powell
The housing crisis has been "seriously under-estimated", says Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille, after the release of shocking new waiting list statistics.
Instead of the 260 000 families initially thought to be on the waiting list, it emerged during a housing portfolio committee meeting on Tuesday that there could be as many as 400 000 families waiting for houses.
"The existing challenge around access to land and housing is almost insurmountable. If the actual number of people requiring access to housing is nearly 50 percent more than we expected, it raises the bar even further and requires an entirely different policy approach," said Zille.
The actual numbers behind the city's housing backlog were contained in a presentation by Nkonki consultants, appointed last year to compile a housing list database for the city.
Zille said the consultants were appointed by former executive mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo "to undertake various functions, including help develop an integrated data-set for housing demand in Cape Town".
People already on the housing list, as well as new applicants, were required to register on Nkonki's database.
According to the city's statistics, the waiting list for houses was 260 000 families. Nkonki identified 150 000 families during its audit.
However, when the two lists were combined, there was an overlap of only 6 000 families.
Zille said: "That is why I asked whether this meant that the original statistics on families requiring access to housing was a serious under-estimate. The answer I got indicated that this is probably the case."
A consultant from Nkonki said the city already had a housing list database when they started their audit.
"We did not scrap the old database but we allowed people to register."
She said when the city's database was loaded into their new database, there were fewer than 6 000 matches.
"The mayor is correct that the number (of people waiting for houses) will be higher."
Zille said the city had, until now, based its housing policies on the figure of 260 000.
"This illustrates the scale of the problem and shows how, under the current housing policy, the city cannot address the backlog."
According to an informal dwelling count study by the city's information and knowledge department, there were 98 031 informal dwellings in Cape Town in 2005, considerably higher than the 28 300 shacks counted in 1993.
"The housing problem is clearly more acute than it was a decade ago," states the report.
Of the additional 100 000 families that would now need to be accommodated by the city's housing policy, Zille said: "This raises the bar considerably. The implications are enormous."
She said more money would need to be allocated to the province by the national fiscal and finance commission.
"Currently the money is moving in the opposite direction to the way people are moving. While money pours into the Eastern Cape, more and more people are moving to establish themselves in the Western Cape. The money must follow the people, not the other way around," she said.
She said the applications for houses were currently being verified by the city.
Councillor Neil Ross, chairman of the housing portfolio committee, said the city would be testing the consolidated housing lists during the next two months.
This would determine whether there was any duplication.
Allegations of households applying more than once for houses would also be investigated.