10 July 2019

The Department of Human Settlements’ vision of
human settlements policy is as relevant now as it was in 2004 when
conceptualising it began, Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu emphasised during
a pre-budget vote media briefing, on Tuesday.

A significant element of the policy was the need to
ensure housing developments were close to cities, with public land to be used
for this purpose. “With new legislation for land expropriation in the pipeline,
we will make sure that we are first takers in the queue for expropriated land,”
said Sisulu.

“We are also required to create access to housing
finance and, for this reason, we have established the Human Settlements
Development Bank.”

Sisulu, however, lamented the impact of a
constrained financial climate on the department’s ability to implement its
policy objectives and, as the population grows and demands housing, the
department’s resources had become diminished.

“We also have to make sure that we work better and
embrace the possibilities offered by new technologies. That will make us more
effective and hopefully our response to our communities much more impactful.”

In the vein of working smarter, Sisulu indicated
the department’s commitment to restoring its relationship with the construction

Therefore, it will be hosting an indaba with the
industry in the near future and it has plans to propose legislation that will
provide the requisite power to restructure the environment of operation and
remove the frustrations the construction industry has to contend with.

Sisulu highlighted that, in 2004, the department
reframed its approach to housing development and took on the concept of human
settlements as opposed to housing. This entailed an approach of building
integrated communities with all amenities, while removing the segregation of
Apartheid spatial planning.

“We were building cities and increasing our output.
We were partnering with the private sector, especially the banking sector and
calling these partnerships catalytic projects,” she said, adding that this
approach had resulted in more than two of these projects in each province, with
varying degrees of success.

One such successful project was Cosmo City, which
consists of 12 000 units, with mixed typologies that range from fully
subsidised houses to bonded houses and rental units.

Meanwhile, Sisulu asserted that working with the
private sector for funding and with empowered construction companies had
contributed greatly to the department’s success on a number of projects.  

However, she indicated that this success was
hampered by the country’s ageing infrastructure, urbanisation accruing at a
faster rate than the department can manage and tensions between South African
born citizens and foreign migrants.

In this regard, she noted that the department would
“work smarter” by using real-time technology to help detect land invasions and
the illegal construction of houses, and to monitor its construction sites to
ensure that its building regulations were adhered to.

Sisulu said government’s decision to include
responsibilities for the departments of Human Settlements and Water and
Sanitation under one Ministry was a “bold move”.

She averred that the departments would, together,
deliver on the thoughtful, judicious and cost-effective oversight of the
establishment of all variants of human settlements which include the provision
of water and sanitation.

“The message I want to send is that it is not
business as usual.”

Sisulu recalled the housing crisis highlighted
during the last election, with this putting the department on the back foot, as
citizens’ expectations far exceeded the delivery milestones achieved by the
Department of Human Settlements.

She noted that the department would pay particular attention to the matter of military veterans, and aims to ensure that 30% of any social housing project should be allocated to student accommodation.

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