Social housing body ready to roll out R600m in Covid-19 rent relief
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Cape Town - The Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) has said it is ready to roll out the long-awaited R600 million rent relief programme, once it is officially launched by Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
The assurance from the SHRA, which is an agency of the ministry, comes after social justice group Ndifuna Ukwazi and a number of civil society organisations endorsed a petition calling on Minister Sisulu to release the rent relief she spoke of in her departmental budget speech to Parliament in July last year.
SHRA spokesperson Lesego Diale said: “The allocated funds for the Residential Rent Relief Programme (RRRP) have been transferred into a SHRA-designated account and the programme has been approved by the minister. At the same time, the SHRA’s rent-relief programme business plan was approved by the Human Settlements director-general.
“The RRRP policy and standard operating procedures which will be used to manage it were approved by the SHRA Council in January 2021.”
According to Diale, the RRRP will be made available retrospectively from April 1, 2020 and will run for a period of approximately six months or until funding is exhausted, whichever comes first. Only South African citizens are eligible to apply for relief.
SHRA acting chief executive Mpolai Nkopane said: “The SHRA and social housing sector remain committed not only to containing the spread of Covid-19 in social housing projects to ensure tenants and staff are protected, but to also successfully roll out this financially sustainable tool in this time of great need.
“We are committed to ensuring that tenants financially impacted by Covid-19 are offered relief,” said Nkopane.
The online petition to the minister said: “In her budget speech to Parliament in July last year Minister Sisulu said that her department planned to allocate R600m towards rental relief to tenants in affordable housing facing financial distress due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The funding, aimed at tenants in formal affordable housing, was meant to help those facing potential homelessness to meet their monthly rental obligations. This, in turn, would assist landlords who depended on rental income to survive.”
Among the groups that have signed the petition are Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, the Stellenbosch Backyard Dwellers Forum as well as both social housing giant Communicare and their tenants as represented by the Communicare tenant beneficiaries group.
Ndifuna Ukwazi spokesperson Zacharia Mashele said: “The minister herself has repeatedly stated that the pandemic has exacerbated existing social and economic inequalities.
“The national lockdowns imposed by the government to save lives have had the inadvertent effect of creating societal insecurity. Many people have lost their incomes and livelihoods or have had their incomes diminished, are facing the threat of losing their homes and are experiencing unprecedented rates of hunger.”
Communicare tenant beneficiaries representative Neville Petersen said: “Minister Sisulu has no reason to delay the R600m Covid-19 rent relief payments to beneficiaries, seeing as the SA Revenue Service announced that an additional R138 billion tax was collected for the tax year, more than the budget forecast.”
However, Sisulu’s spokesperson, Steve Motale, said: “The minister did not promise. She was detailing the department’s plans and what the department planned and submitted to the Treasury and the National Command Council.
“The matter is currently in the parliamentary process. Once finalised, the public will be informed accordingly,” said Motale.