Activists concerned over Sisulu’s land programme, saying it contains pitfalls

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Cape Town – Activists have raised concerns over Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s Rapid Land Release Programme, saying it contains pitfalls and underlying issues that could stall housing delivery.

Development Action Group (DAG) chief executive Aditya Kumar said: “While the programme offers many solutions, a number of issues that are fundamental to housing delivery will need to be resolved for it to work. The capability of communities to manage self-build, appropriate tenure security, financial support for benefiting households, adequate amenities for the neighbourhood etc. are some of these key elements. Rushing into this without proper consultation and/or evaluation might lead to several undesirable outcomes.”

Last year Sisulu announced a new housing policy that will see the state provide land to residents so that they can build their own houses. Sisulu allocated an additional R588 million to four provinces, Gauteng, Western Cape, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga, in an effort to speed up the upgrading of informal settlements and servicing of stands to accelerate the Rapid Land Release Programme. The aim of the new, cheaper model is to fast-track the delivery of houses and tackle the huge housing backlog of more than 2 million units.

Sisulu said: “Gauteng, Western Cape and Mpumalanga are seeing the fastest-growing towns; we are making this allocation to support the upgrading of their informal settlements and release of serviced sites to encourage qualifying beneficiaries to build for themselves.”

She indicated the programme must also benefit those whose household income was less than R15 000 per month, and that provinces must work together with the banking and private sectors, and other stakeholders, to service land and make affordable stands available.

An opinion piece written by Ndifuna Ukwazi researcher Michael Clark stated: “At face value, the programme has the potential to reach millions of people who do not have adequate housing or equitable access to land. The problem is that the public, and civil society in particular, have read about what sounds like a significant policy shift in the media. Our organisations are among many which have engaged with the Department of Human Settlements virtually this year about the impact of the pandemic on residents of informal settlements. As a result, we are aware that rapid land release is under consideration.

“However, in the absence of a consultation programme and a proposed policy document to which we can respond, it is difficult to assess the implications of what we have seen in the media. A great deal of uncertainty now exists regarding the future of our housing programme.”

Cape Argus

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