239 17.02.2013 ArceloMittal in Vanderbijlpark has taken Gauteng Government to court to demolish RDP houses build near their railway line inTshepiso Township Extension 4 near Boipatong in the Vaal. Picture:Itumeleng English

Cape Town - The housing waiting list is a myth which should be eradicated from public discussion on housing, according to research by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute and the Community Law Centre at UWC, which looked at housing waiting lists, demand databases and allocation.

The report, released this month, said about 2 million houses had been built by the government since 1994 and that there was still a large housing backlog that often lead frustrated residents into service delivery protests.

In the Western Cape, 426 711 people are on the waiting list, 65 percent (280 726) of them in Cape Town.

According to the researchers, the perception was that there was a “waiting list” or “queue” for housing, and people must wait until their name rises to the top of the list on a first-come, first-served basis.

Not following the system will result in queue-jumping. Anti-Land Invasion Units in the different municipalities around the country have been set to evict people who occupy land, houses or buildings illegally.

The researchers said: “The reality is that there is no waiting list, whether one conceives of the ‘waiting list’ as a mechanism which simply allocates housing to those who have waited the longest, or as a slightly more complicated device meant to take special needs and/or geographical location into account. Instead there are a range of highly differentiated, and sometimes contradictory, policies… in place to respond to housing need.”

There were also new housing policies which appeared to contradict the logic of a waiting list altogether.

“The way in which people are ‘chosen’ for these projects is clouded. The process is often shrouded in secrecy, bureaucratic complexity, and some corruption. This lack of transparency frustrates intended beneficiaries (whether they are currently registered or not). It creates the impression that there is more corruption than there likely is, and leads to public protest, often in the form of unlawful occupation of publicly funded and constructed houses.”

The researchers recommended a broad shift in the public housing discussion away from the current misplaced fixation with the “waiting list”.

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Cape Argus