Importance of Resource-Use Efficiency in Human Settlements | Western Cape Government


Importance of Resource-Use Efficiency in Human Settlements

10 October 2010

South African Housing Foundation (SAHF) International Housing Conference

Chief Director for Communications in the Department of Minerals and Energy, Mr Bheki Khumalo;
President of the Chartered Institute of Housing (United Kingdom), Prof Paddy Gray;
President of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (United States of America), Mr Akinola Popoola;
Chairman and Associate Professor of HWA HSIA Institute of Technology, Taipei, Taiwan, Professor Jiann-Mou Chen;
Councillors from the United Kingdom;
Members of Parliament and Councillors from here in South Africa; Delegates who have travelled from near and far:

Please allow me to extend a warm, Western Cape welcome to you all.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank our host and chairperson of this session, the CEO of the Southern African Housing Foundation (SAHF), Mr John Hopkins, for inviting me to be a part of this conference once again, and asking me to fulfil this role. My department has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the SAHF, and we look forward to building on the partnership that has already been so fruitful in beginning to address some of the numerous challenges we face in the provision of housing and the development of sustainable human settlements in this province.

This annual conference hosted by the SAHF, I believe, makes an important contribution to encouraging innovation and inspiring us to look at human settlements and the provision of housing with fresh eyes and an open mind.

In closing last year's conference, I unpacked the direction this government was proposing to take to address the enormous challenge of addressing the housing backlog in this province. I said at the time that it was heartening that many of the presentations we saw were aligned to our thinking and the direction we were taking, and I believe those proceedings contributed to the refinement of our strategy in the Western Cape, which we launched earlier this year.

I am very excited about the theme of this year's conference, "Green Technology for Sustainable Human Settlements." It speaks directly to one of the Western Cape Provincial Government's strategic objectives, namely "Mainstreaming Sustainability and Optimising Resource-use Efficiency." That means that resource-use efficiency and sustainability need to be integrated into the core of what we do, and not just be additional nice-to-haves.

And, of course, as the large number of delegates assembled here this week will testify, the built environment and, in particular, the development of human settlements has a major role to play in achieving this objective. And so the theme also addresses a key outcome of the Strategic Objective of which I am the custodian in the province - that of "Developing Integrated and Sustainable Human Settlements."

We have defined three broad outcomes in order to realise our vision of integrated and sustainable human settlements with access to social and economic opportunities for all the province's citizens. These outcomes are:

1. Accelerated delivery of housing opportunities.

This outcome addresses the immediate and urgent need of people with limited or no access to basic services and, as I set out in my closing address last year, a key element of our plans to achieve this outcome is increasing the provision of serviced sites - doing a little for many, rather than a lot for only a few.

Other plans that address this outcome revolve around addressing bulk infrastructure and human resource constraints, as well as improving co-ordination among the different spheres of government and across portfolios within those spheres through improved Integrated Development and Human Settlement Planning.

2. A sense of ownership, rights and responsibilities among beneficiaries, owners and tenants.

Key to achieving this outcome is the active involvement of beneficiaries in the design and building of their neighbourhoods and homes.

A crucial element of this government's plans to achieve this outcome is increasing the proportion of state-funded houses built under the self-help "People's Housing Process" programme. I have also proposed to the National Minister of Human Settlements, Mr Tokyo Sexwale, that we expand on this programme to give people who have the means - through their own savings and/or assistance from their employers - to incrementally fund and build their own homes with state-backed loans, rather than wait for the government to provide them with a house.

3. Optimal and sustainable use of resources.

This is, of course, the key outcome I referred to earlier, which the theme of this week's conference addresses most directly.

We intend to achieve this outcome by exploring and encouraging the use of alternative technologies, designs, layouts and topography to achieve the most energy-efficient, water-wise and cost-effective human settlement development. We also intend to work with other spheres of government - and I am very glad the national Department of Minerals and Energy, represented by Mr Khumalo is here today - and non-governmental organisations to secure funding to provide green technologies such as Solar Water Heaters, grey-water recycling and solar and energy efficient lighting to past and current low cost human settlement projects.

To this end, we intend to increase the percentage of new projects meeting our integration and sustainability criteria from forty (40) percent this year to ninety (90) percent in 2014. We have also set ourselves targets to increase the proportion of units incorporating one or more of the above-mentioned resource-use efficiency methods from a conservative ten (10) percent this year to forty (40) percent in 2014.

I should point out that our targets speak to achieving the outcome - resource-use efficiency - and not the alternative technologies and building methods in and of themselves. In August, I visited a PHP project in Atlantis here in the City of Cape Town which is using traditional building materials, but applying some simple and affordable measures to improve energy efficiency in the houses they are building. For example, all the houses have North-facing living areas; their roofs have longer overhangs on the North-facing side to provide shade in summer, while allowing the lower winter sun to warm the house through larger windows. They also have well-insulated ceilings. I mention this example to illustrate the fact that the outcome can also be achieved without alternative materials or technologies. The challenge for suppliers of new green technologies is to convince their potential customers why their product is better, cheaper or more effective. But I believe that we as government also have a responsibility to encourage innovation by giving alternative building suppliers opportunities to demonstrate their products' value.

Also in pursuit of optimal and sustainable use of resources, we have set ourselves the goal of developing clear guidelines to increase densities of new human settlement developments in land scarce municipalities, and particularly on well-located land within such municipalities.

But crucial to achieving this outcome, too, is the involvement of other stakeholders such as the National Department of Human Settlements, National Treasury and partners in the private sector to assist us to close the gap in the property market.

Because resource-use efficiency does not only apply to natural resources. It also refers to financial and human resources. The state has limited resources and capacity, and we need the investment and active involvement of the private sector in the provision of housing and the development of sustainable human settlements.

I am therefore happy to see that Standard Bank has sponsored a session at this year's conference, which will hopefully generate some new ideas and fruitful discussion in this regard.

But I want to extend the challenge to all the speakers who will address us this week, and all the delegates who participate in the discussions that follow: how can green technology stimulate and/or assist private sector investment in affordable and low cost housing?

While the theme of this conference speaks directly to Outcome three (3), I would ask that you bear all three in mind during its proceedings. Do not only think about how green technology can assist the government within the context of its current delivery model; but, rather, how it can assist people of all income levels to meet their housing needs sustainably, with or without the State's assistance.

This conference is about innovation. So my plea to you all is that we open our minds to all possibilities. Let us not be held back by what we already know, or think we know, and what we already do.

With that said, let me wish you well in your presentations and discussions over the next three days. To those visiting us from out of town or abroad, please enjoy your stay here with us. I hope you have set aside some time after the conference to enjoy our friendly hospitality and beautiful city, province and country.

Thank you.