Housing and living conditions

national context in housing and living conditions image

● The budget for Human Settlement and Municipal Infrastructure increased by 9%, from R179 billion in
2016/17, to R195 billion in 2017/18.
● National Treasury allocated R114.8 billion to subsidised public housing over the next three years.
● According to the Department of Human Settlements, government delivered more than 4.3 million
houses and subsidies from 1994 to 2016, benefiting more than 20 million South Africans. The
Department aims to deliver over 1.5 million housing opportunities by 2019, as prescribed in the
2014–2019 Medium Term Strategic Framework. Furthermore, the Department seeks to ensure that poor
households have access to adequate housing in better living environments.
● In 2016, the Minister of Human Settlements confirmed South Africa’s housing backlog at 2.1 million
houses; up from the initial estimated figure of 1.9 million. This backlog is thought to have been
exacerbated by rapid urbanisation.
● According to the World Bank, in 2016, South Africa’s rural population consisted of approximately 35%
of the total population.
● The General Household Survey, 2016 showed that more than three-quarters (80%) of South African
households were in formal dwellings, 14% in informal dwellings, and 6% in traditional dwellings.
The North West and Gauteng had the highest proportion of informal dwellings, at 21% and 20%
● The survey found that 13% of South African households were living in ‘RDP’ or state-subsidised
dwellings. This is an increase from 5% in 2002. A slightly higher percentage of female-headed
households (16.9%) than male-headed household (11%) were living in these dwellings.
● The proportion of households connected to electricity supply from the mains increased by 9%, from
77% in 2002, to 84% in 2016, according to the survey.
● The survey also showed that, while 89% of South African households had access to piped water in
2016, this was true for fewer households in Limpopo (75%) and the Eastern Cape (76%).
● Access to improved sanitation facilities increased, from 62% of households in 2002, to 81% in 2016.
The Housing Act, 1997
The Housing Act (no 107 of 1997) – amended by the Housing Amendment Act in 2001 (no 4 of 2001) –
defines housing development as the establishment and maintenance of habitable, stable and sustainable
public and private residential environments, to ensure viable households and communities in areas
allowing convenient access to economic opportunities, health, educational and social amenities, and that
all citizens and permanent residents of the Republic, on a progressive basis, have access to permanent and
secure structures, adequate protection against the elements, potable water, adequate sanitary facilities
and domestic energy supply. This primary piece of housing legislation compels all spheres of government
to prioritise the needs of the poor in respect of housing development, and consult meaningfully with
individuals and communities affected by housing development. Required processes include racial, social,
economic and physical integration in urban and rural areas; measures to prohibit unfair discrimination on
the grounds of gender and other forms of unfair discrimination by all actors in the housing development
process; higher density in respect of housing development to ensure the economical utilisation of land
and services; and the meeting of special housing needs, including the needs of the disabled.
Breaking New Ground: A Comprehensive Plan for the Development of Sustainable Human
Settlements, 2004
This plan reinforced government’s vision of promoting the achievement of a non-racial, integrated
society through the development of sustainable human settlements and quality housing. It built on
the 1994 White Paper on Housing, but was unique in that it shifted government’s focus from providing
poor households with houses and basic services (e.g. potable water and sanitation) on an equitable
basis, to improving the quality of housing and housing environments by integrating communities and
settlements. It outlined a five-year plan for the achievement of its objectives and was also included in the
2009 National Housing Code, which simplified information on the various housing subsidy instruments
available to assist low-income households. In support of this plan, various stakeholders who attended the
2005 Housing Indaba in Cape Town committed to removing or improving all slums in South Africa by
2014 and fast-tracking the provision of formal housing within human settlements, as stated in the Social
Contract for Rapid Housing Delivery.
People’s Housing Process Policy, 2008
The main aim of this policy is to deliver better human settlement outcomes at household and community
level, based on community contributions and the leveraging of additional resources through partnerships.
It replaced the People’s Housing Partnership Trust Programme, and is aligned with the Comprehensive
Plan for the Development of Sustainable Human Settlements.
● Funding affordable housing in poor communities is understandably the most popular type of housing support in South Africa. However, funders should not neglect other critical issues related to housing and living conditions. For example, funders can consider catering for moderate income earners who do not qualify for government subsidies or bank mortgages. Banks and large employers have a particularly important role to play here.
● The need for decent and affordable housing is undoubtedly a pressing issue in South Africa and may
be best addressed through strategic partnerships with a broad range of institutions; for example,
government agencies, businesses and local organisations. Funders should help mobilise and harness
the combined resources, efforts and initiatives of the different stakeholders.
● While the state has made notable strides in providing affordable housing for the poor, ongoing
challenges include backlogs and poor standards of construction. Consequently, focusing on
programmes that increase transparency and efficiency in housing allocation could be worthwhile
for funders. Furthermore, funders could consider the positive impact of adopting environmentally
friendly building systems and products.

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