Debates on State of the Province Address: Serving the Poor First
The Premier, in her address, stated there are some challenges in our government. I want to reiterate that the Department of Human Settlements is facing a number of challenges in the delivery of housing opportunities, including working in an environment where it takes six years from planning to delivery of housing opportunities, including the coordination of 11 different grants, conflict among communities as they compete for housing opportunities, a fluctuating budget and changes in national policy.
However, let me not dwell on the difficulties. We have made significant progress in our servicing of the poor and our ability to deliver. First, we have redefined our strategic objectives to serve the poorest of the poor as quick as possible and to address the needs of the Gap Market. Second, we have increased our capacity of qualified professionals to meet the technical demands of housing delivery. Third, we have developed and designed a new information management system to manage the complex six-year life cycle of multiple projects. Fourth, we are servicing poor communities with hundreds of millions of rands in our PHP unit, creating jobs and improving how we implement PHP policy. And fifth, we are also upgrading social housing units to give people better living conditions.
Let me address each of these points in more detail.
There are around 500 000 households in the Western Cape requiring housing, and many of these people have been waiting for housing for up to 30 years. This long waiting period is not just in the Western Cape; it is a national problem. Many of these people are the poorest of the poor and have been waiting under appalling conditions without water or sanitation.
We recognised that we can't expect people to wait so long for houses under dehumanising conditions, whilst relatively few people got housed each year and so we set out to ensure that we roll out the provision of basic services. At least people could then wait for their houses under better living conditions. With this initiative, we want to service the poor as best we could with the resources we have. With people streaming into the Western Cape because of its reputation for quality education, health and other service delivery, the number of poor we are committed to servicing has been growing.
We also support the President's announcement that Gap Market of people earning between R3 500 and R15 000 per month will be serviced through increased subsidies and a mortgage insurance fund, as we have been building housing units for the Gap Market in projects like Nuwe Begin and Our Pride, but people haven't been able to get funding through the banks.
We have increased our capacity of qualified professionals to meet the technical demands of housing delivery. The province relies on municipalities to submit projects for approval and funding, and in response to this need, we have appointed Professional Resource Teams, or PRTs, which are groups of professionals employed to assist municipalities in creating realistic housing plans in line with our strategic objectives. The PRTs will address the lack of capacity often found in municipalities, which prevents them from submitting suitable housing plans to us. I am proud to announce that the long process of setting terms of reference, advertising and appointing these teams has been completed, and the first five teams are ready to begin work in our PHP unit, Eden District, Winelands District, the City of Cape Town and the West Coast.
The PRTs will ensure that municipalities submit enough projects to us, that in the event of a project being blocked there will be other projects in the pipeline ready to take its place. Without other projects in the pipeline, one blocked project means we miss our targets. With the PRTs in place, we will be able to work better together with local municipalities to ensure we meet our targets and delivery for the poor is not hampered by the non-performance of a major project.
Third, we have developed and designed a Project Management Unit, or PMU, to track and manage projects over their life cycle. As the Premier said, projects span six years, and have to progress through many layers of bureaucracy over several years before construction can begin.
Until recently, it was difficult to easily track a project over its lifespan and identify where and the blockages were. There are many transactions between different officials and departments, and historically there has't been a coordinated monitoring system to track projects. We have designed and created the PMU to track and monitor projects through their lifespan, and to alert us when a blockage occurs or when an expected transaction has't happened. The PMU has taken two years to design and implement, and the first phase of operating has begun. The impact of the PMU will be to speed up service delivery, so people who most need houses can get them.
Fourth, we are servicing poor communities with our Peoples' Housing Process, or PHP unit, creating jobs and improving how we implement PHP policy. In 2011/2012, R230 million was budgeted for PHP delivery, of which R226 million has been spent and, as a result, the allocation for this year has been increased to R325 million. A total of 1 113 work opportunities have been created through departmental housing projects, of which PHP is a major contributor.
Finally, some of the changes in policy implementation are the appointment of dedicated PHP project managers, taking responsibility for approving contractors so as to reduce corruption and quality issues, and maintaining a database of approved suppliers and contractors.
Fifth, the department also committed an amount of over R1 billion over five years, and R230 million in 2011/2012 for the upgrading of the City of Cape Town's community residential units (CRUs). This upgrade was neglected by the previous administration and improves the living conditions of many requiring social housing assistance, allowing us to deliver on our mandate of housing for all.
Finally, we have standardised the minimum criteria for the selection of beneficiaries specifically designed for municipal use. This will ensure housing opportunities will be allocated in a fair and transparent fashion, ensuring that people who most need housing opportunities receive them, while also taking the demographic profile and housing needs of local communities into account.
I am confident that these initiatives have laid the groundwork for the successful and efficient delivery of human settlements into the future.