Department of Human Settlements' Annual Report Debate
The delivery of integrated and sustainable human settlements is an extremely complex endeavour. It must be guided by the correct strategy and implemented in the face of challenging conditions. In this short debate, I will refer to the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements as the department. First, I will introduce the department's three strategic objective 6 (SO6) outcomes and their link to the National Department of Human Settlement's Outcome 8 outputs. Following, I will move into some of the challenges we face and plans to meet these challenges, as well as initiatives already undertaken. Finally, I will present the department's response to recommendations of the Standing Committee after the presentation of the annual report on Wednesday, 2 November 2011, in the Provincial Parliament.
The department's first SO6 outcome is to ensure the accelerated delivery of housing opportunities, including up-scaling the provision and implementation of serviced sites. This is directly aligned to National Outcome 8 Output 1, the accelerated delivery of housing opportunities, and Output 2, improved access to basic services.
The department's second SO6 outcome is to inculcate a sense of ownership and personal responsibility among beneficiaries, owners and tenants. This directly relates to National Output 4 of an improved property market. Through ensuring security of tenure, title deed transfer and servicing the gap market, as well as ensuring the rights of landlords, which are all functions of SO6, the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements ensures that the conditions supporting a viable and regulated property market are installed.
Finally, the department's third SO6 outcome, the optimal and sustainable use of resources, is aligned with National Output 3, being more efficient land utilisation. Land is viewed as a resource, and strategies for optimal land use include densification of human settlements.
The department faced many challenges in the 2010-2011 year, and following are some of the most important. In order for sustainable human settlements to be built, bulk infrastructure of water and sanitation needs to be installed. Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay is an example where the capacity of the bulk infrastructure sewage system has been exceeded and is leading to a breakdown of the current system and impeding further development or densification. The lack of capacity of Zandvliet sewage works in the City of Cape Town is another example, which prevented the building of houses. The department is working more closely with municipalities to ensure that expenditure on bulk infrastructure is prioritised in new human settlement projects, ensuring sufficient capacity is available.
The lack of housing planning pipeline from municipalities has meant that if a project is not approved or blocked, there are no other projects ready to go which can take their place and are in line with PSO6 and Outcome 8. Going forward, the department is creating professional resource teams (PRTs) to assist municipalities in the planning process, so that there can be more projects in the pipeline. This will ensure that delivery is not hampered by a lack of available projects.
Other challenges include community dynamics. Boystown, a project in Crossroads, Cape Town, of over 1 500 housing units is eight years in the development, with rival power factions in the area protecting self interest doing their best to hijack construction. The Peoples' Housing Process (PHP), driven and managed by communities, has traditionally been vulnerable to corrupt practices and misuse, and each time there is corruption, a project is blocked, sometimes for years as the investigation follows its course. The department has created a new PHP policy to ensure that this is corrected, taking greater control of PHP projects. Other issues include continual in-migration to the Western Cape and a growing backlog and a culture of dependency created by a nanny state.
The challenges outlined have required the department to mitigate with several important initiatives. The Project Management Unit (PMU) has been established, which will allow project managers to instantly track, monitor and report on complex projects that span many years. This will help in identifying and avoiding sources of blockage before they occur, as well as expediting administrative processes. The professional resource teams, mentioned above, are teams of professionals who will assist municipalities in developing and implementing Integrated Development Housing Plans. The department is in the process of filling funded posts to build permanent capacity in the back office. Most of these positions will be filled by mid-December 2011.
Several key policy developments and legislative changes have been initiated to support the delivery of human settlements in alignment with the Provincial SO6 and National Outcome 8 objectives. Critical to housing delivery is the process of building relationships with community groups, civic groups and corporate entities involved in human settlement delivery. This involves communicating the department's strategic focus and the realities of housing delivery in order to improve our service delivery. To meet this important need, the department held the Human Settlements Indaba on 14 and 15 November 2011, where over 100 organisations were represented.
Finally, and perhaps most important, is the problem of the housing demand backlog, which means that people have been living in informal settlements and waiting for houses for many years without the basic services. The provision of basic services is of primary importance, and this sentiment has been reflected by several leaders. Ben Turok, MP, said on 4 October 2011 that government needs to come up with a realistic view of upgrading the conditions of ordinary South Africans. Pravin Gordhan, National Minister of Finance, said on 26 October 2011 at the medium-term budget address that "we must do more with less". Trevor Manuel said in Cape Town on 16 March that "we must accept that despite the adequate allocation of funding, we fail to deliver quality services, especially to the poor".
This accepted reality, that people need the delivery of basic services before houses, has resulted in a shift in focus by spending most of our budget to accelerate delivery of basic services, thereby doing less for more people. This will at least ensure that people wait for houses under humane conditions with access to basic services.
There have been some real success stories in human settlements delivery, notably the Joe Slovo Development in greater Cape Town. This R450-million high-density development of 2 639 houses includes an innovative layout and renewable energy in the form of solar heaters. It is also the result of close and constructive engagement with the community, and the work of a contractor who has performed well to meet quality standards and project deadlines. Joe Slovo is an example of what can be done when all stakeholders work together and fulfil their mandates.
To conclude, the standing committee made several recommendations after the presentation of the annual report on 2 November 2011. Among them, that "the department report on the process of reconciling and verifying research findings on housing demand in the province in its quarterly report presentation to the Standing Committee on Governance". This will be reported on in the quarterly report presentation.
It was also recommended "that the Western Cape Housing Development Fund report on the process through which they will ensure that their accounting practices are Generally Recognised Accounting Practices (GRAP) compliant".
The department is currently increasing capacity to ensure compliance, with exceptions, by 31 March 2011, as mentioned previously.