Census 2022 'fails to show reality of poor people’s housing needs’

Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke announced the results of Census 2022. Picture: Ntswe Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke announced the results of Census 2022. Picture: Ntswe Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 11, 2023


While the Census 2022 has reported an upward trend in people living in formal dwellings, (from 65.1% in 1996 to 88.5% in 2022) housing activists are sceptical as the situation on the ground remains dire.

Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke on Tuesday announced the results of Census 2022, and handed over the report to President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria.

Census 2022 was the fourth population and housing count in post-apartheid South Africa – the first being conducted in 1996, and subsequent censuses being conducted in 2001 and 2011.

According to the latest data, the population increased from 40 583 573 in 1996 to 62 027 503 in 2022, representing a growth rate of 4.1%.

The number of households increased from 14.4 million in 2011 to 17.8 million in 2022.

Females remained above 50% in all provinces except for Gauteng, where the proportion of females has been below 50% since 1996.

In terms of housing, the report also found that the proportion of households that lived in informal dwellings had halved from 16.2% in 1996 to 8.1% in 2022.

The Northern Cape, at 12.1%, had the highest proportion of households living in informal dwellings, with Gauteng and the Western Cape following closely, with both at about 11%.

According to the census, just over two-fifths (41.6%) of the dwellings that households lived in were owned and fully paid off, with similar proportions recorded in 2001 and 2011.

The proportion of households that occupied their dwellings rent free increased from 18.6% in 2011 to 25.6% in 2022, while rented dwellings decreased slightly from 25% in 2011 to 23.2% in 2022.

In the Western Cape, 32.4% of households said they lived in a government-subsidised dwelling.

UWC demographer Dr Nancy Stiegler said: “The data are in line with what experts could expect with a growth rate of about 1.8%, a population that is ageing (a national median age of 28 years old compared with 23 years old 20 years ago, and a shrinking population pyramid at younger ages), and with an overall sex balance logically in favour of females, who have a higher life expectancy.”

She said that due to several factors, including the pandemic, some parts of the country, like the Western Cape, were harder to enumerate than others, which led to potential undercounts.

“It is essential to note that no census in the world is perfect, and that a certain degree of undercount always happens, which does not prevent having a very good estimation of the national and provincial population (perhaps a bit more complicated to estimate at very small area levels, but still feasible) to understand the population structure and dynamics.

“Housing conditions have improved at the national level. Now, it will be interesting to run deeper analysis at the small area level to better understand where specific actions have to be taken to improve lives of those who are not yet benefiting from improved housing conditions,” Stiegler said.

According to the definition by StasSA, formal dwellings include houses with a brick/concrete structure, flats and apartments, cluster houses, townhouses, semi-detached houses or any formal dwelling situated in a backyard, such as a room or garden cottage.

This, Reclaim the City housing activist Bevil Lucas said, did not reveal whether the housing needs of the poor in particular were being met.

“It's very difficult to understand the conclusions they arrived at, for example after they define housing typologies. In terms of formality, where in the metro do they see an increase or delivery of formal housing?

“What kind of housing, where is the breakdown? If in the Cape Town City metro the demand is 500 000 for example, what percentage of the 500 000 were they able to deliver housing to, whether directly by the state or contractually by the private sector?

“The statistics don’t paint the full picture, that makes it very difficult. It is very possible to do a proper disclosure of what has been delivered, where and who has been able to access the delivery of this formal housing.

“Another question is what have people done to enforce the delivery of housing? My sense on the ground is that it’s becoming far more difficult for people to get into the formal sector, because of the failure of the state at different levels due to the lack of delivery of affordable housing to those in need of it.”

Kenneth Matlawe from the Housing Assembly said that the results hid the “stark inequalities” across the country.

“More informal dwellings are created than any housing developments, there’s more land occupations, people getting evicted out of social rentals. Even people in gap housing can’t afford their houses through banks,” he said. “Inequality is inherited, especially in Cape Town.

The more you travel to the CBD you can see the environment becomes more fancy, and it becomes poorer as you move away from the city. It is built into the environment, which is not allowing people to move up stratification ladders.”

The results showed there were 55 719 homeless persons recorded in Census 2022.

Development Action Group researcher Querida Saal said: “Credible and reliable data about homeless persons, probably the most invisible group in society, is crucial. Although due to differences in data collection tools, the data for previous census are not provided, we can still get some insight from what’s provided. The large disparity in terms of persons living in shelters and those who are roofless (on the streets) tells the story of the insufficiency of available shelters or transitional housing for homeless persons.

“As expected, the metros show higher numbers of homeless persons than elsewhere. With migration as it is, and more people expected to move from rural areas into cities in search of employment opportunities, the current stats reaffirm the need for metros to innovatively plan and budget in terms of providing housing solutions for this group of people.”

In accepting the results, Ramaphosa said it underscored “the urgency with which we must work towards meeting the aspirations of the National Development Plan and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “Census 2022 has told us where we are making progress, but it has also laid bare the challenges that remain,” he said.

Cape Times