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Beneficiaries a voice in govt housing

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04 Jul 2013

Government will in future involve beneficiaries in the planning and building of the communities in which they live, says Deputy Human Settlements Minister Zou Kota-Fredericks.

Census 2011 revealed that over 1.2 million households were living in informal settlements. This was an increase of almost 20 percent since 1996.

Addressing a National Upgrading Summit in Khayelitsha, the Deputy Minister said government would change its approach in providing communities with housing.
“We are now changing our approach to allow for more flexibility, more creativity and more humanity in the way in which we work with communities around shelter.”
She said this meant that government needed to become more flexible and creative in its responses to informal settlement upgrading. Government also needed to be more accommodating to the efforts of the poor to plan, build and maintain the communities in which they live.
“We will build partnerships with communities, and give them ‘voice and choice’ in the design and construction of settlements that build sustainable livelihood and fulfil their needs.
“National government has recognised that to unlock these capacities, we must build a new practice of participatory planning, construction and management in sustainable human settlements.”
Since 1994, government has housed more than 11 million people, and built over 2.65 million houses. In this time, new integrated development projects were pioneered.
New housing technologies were also developed. This “made an enormous difference to the lives of those families who now live on their own property, receive services and have access to social and economic amenities,” Kota-Fredericks said.
But the number of informal settlements has increased, particularly in Gauteng and the Western Cape. Census 2011 revealed that over 1.2 million households were living in informal settlements. This was an increase of almost 20 percent since 1996.
Today, South Africa has a total of almost 2 700 informal settlements compared to 300 in 1994.
Despite the steady increase in subsidies, factors such as escalating building costs, inflation and rising land prices have slowed down the actual delivery of houses.
“Our need for cheaper land to offset this erosion of subsidy value has meant we tend to locate our new housing projects at the edge of cities and townships, pushing the poor further away from employment opportunities and amenities,” Kota-Fredericks said.
To cope with the demand for mass housing for the poor, government has had to standardise its approach. But while this strategy produced houses, it reduced government’s engagement with the beneficiaries.
The deputy minister said government had both provided and decided on the nature and form of low income housing.
Kota-Fredericks said communities were increasingly becoming frustrated with their lack of “voice and choice’ in development processes.
“We know that when the poor are not involved in development decisions they will care less about their surroundings or even use their initiative to resist paying for their services. –

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