DACRE HADDON SPEAKING ON PROVINCIAL HOUSING ANNUAL REPORT 2008/2009

Honourable Speaker, Madam Premier, MEC’s, Members of the Legislature, the media and guests.

There has been a marginal improvement in housing service delivery during the 2008/09 financial year. While we acknowledge the good work by the department in attaining their housing target of 15000 houses during the year-much of the credit in achieving this number of units built is largely due to the intervention of the national housing intervention team.

This is no time for self congratulation as a department. The Eastern Cape Provincial Housing department is flouting the law in terms of the Housing Act & Housing Code. There are many areas where the act is not being implemented and I quote a few examples here:

a) Part 1 General Principles (1); c 4) …government must ensure that housing development is administered in a transparent, accountable and equitable manner and upholds good governance.
Speaker this is not being done. The pouring of in excess of R300 million for a rectification bale out in the province is as Minister Sexwale stated “a national shame”.

b) The diabolical management of shady contractors, inferior building materials, lack of inspection on properties, many units built away from community facilities are all examples of bad governance.

c) The act states in paragraph e) 111) of “the establishment and maintenance of socially and economically viable communities and of safe and healthy living conditions to ensure the elimination and prevention of slums and slum conditions”.
How often do we read about disasters like “Sweetwaters”, “Alphendale”
and many other housing shockers in this province.

Speaker these are two examples but the list is endless where this housing department has not complied with legislation.

The 2008/09 Annual report gives a more positive picture of what is happening as opposed to the realities on the ground. Honourable Speaker as I have said in this house before and will continue to emphasize during this electoral term, is that government is approaching housing delivery in the wrong manner.

However, before discussing this with the house I wish to emphasize the following issues which as highlighted in the report are causing problems in securing efficient and sustainable housing provision in the province.

Firstly Honourable Speaker, it is not the duty of government to provide housing to the citizens of the country.
The Housing Act of 1997 obliges all spheres of government to General principles part 2(d) stating ”encourage and support individuals and communities, including but not limited to, co operatives, associations and other bodies which are community based, in their efforts to fulfil their own housing needs by assisting them in accessing land, service and technical assistance in a way that leads to the transfer of skills to, and empowerment of the community” and then Honourable Speaker section e(11) “ conditions in which everyone meets their obligations in respect of housing development”

Honourable Speaker this does not mean that government must build thousands of rows of identical “matchbox” RDP or Breaking New Ground houses. Sure, building of houses for those who elect to go this choice is an option but it must be as equal an option as rental housing, Extended Benefit Ownership scheme, Social Housing –depending on what individuals and communities choose for their housing needs.

What is needed Speaker is empowerment and choice for citizens to make their own housing choices.

I refer to an article by Richard Martin from a magazine titled “Architecture”-the journal of the South African Institute of Architects March /April 2009 edition.

In this publication, an article by Martin titled “Housing, Houses and the power to choose” he states the following and quote:
“By providing housing, doing it for people, the government is disempowering its citizens: they have no effective say in what will be provided, or where, or with whom they will share their environment. The power to own the house (and the environment in which it is located) in the psychological sense has been removed, as the occupant is a unit in a cast of thousands, a cipher.”

Government is insulting its citizens by developing housing in this manner.

Speaker Martin goes onto say in the same article that:

“The first and most fundamental problem of the RDP policy is that housing is provided for people and not by people.”
We have to stop this “nanny state” “hand out” mentality the ANC is giving to citizens and replace this with empowerment, opportunity and choice for citizens.

This brings me to the first problem in the 2008/09 report.

Firstly, Speaker the biggest problem we face in this province with housing provision is the lack of capacity by municipalities to facilitate adequate housing.

Yet again Speaker province Housing is failing to adhere to the Housing Act Part 3 Section 7 “Function of provincial governments” paragraph (2) c “take all reasonable and necessary steps to support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to effectively exercise their powers and perform their duties in respect of housing development ”. We are informed here of lack of capacity and personnel constraints leading to non-delivery of houses.

Secondly Speaker the usual problem of staff and capacity within Provincial Housing With 54% of staff posts filled remains a problem. However, Speaker much as staffing is a problem it is a challenge in most departments. Even in the private sector, staffing and budgets are challenges of budget and shortages of the staff. What is needed is to utilize what staff we have effectively and cost efficiently.

Populating organograms to the full is not the panacea to instant service delivery and the solving of capacity problems. The correct staff-capable staff — staff with ability need to be employed on merit and not as part of the ANC Cadre deployment programme as is now the fashion in all government departments.

In order for Provincial Housing to be effectively managed-it must be operated like a business-in a lean and efficient manner.

The third problem in the department is the continued lack of planning in housing projects, alignment of Intergovernmental structures. Due to poor planning in Programme 2, there is non-operative Housing Demand Data base and in programme 3 there is no plan to upgrade (eradicate) informal settlements. (As mandated to do so by the act and I mentioned this earlier).

Speaker the omissions of a housing data base after 15 years is criminal. This is a basic requirement to ensure accurate beneficiary administration.

Speaker why I am emphasizing all these shortcomings is that if the Department adhered to the law of the Housing Act and Housing Code and facilitated housing development many of the problems facing the department would be minimized or eradicated.

Honourable Speaker, imagine the relief of capacity in having to deal with contractor problems like poor performance and fraud. Imagine how rectification of houses would be minimal if beneficiaries used their own devices or contractors to build houses they want with materials of their choice.

Government could play a facilitating role in drawing up sound contracts with reputable low cost housing contractors. Speaker, if government did not activate itself in the building of houses the hassles of housing waiting lists and the associated problems aligned to them would be minimized.

Imagine how this could free up capacity in the department. Speaker, fellow colleagues, the housing report also has some glaring concerns.

The lack of development in programme 4 of Social Housing and the Extended Enhanced Discount Benefit Scheme (EEDBS) need better focus so as to expand choice for individuals.

The virementing of R8 million extra to the salary bill and then some is used to pay performances for junior staff when the department is generally not performing is shocking.

The lack of an anti-corruption and risk management prevention plan as required by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) is of great concern. The poor aligning of planning between sector departments and spheres of government remains a challenge.
Honourable Speaker the most serious problem of all that needs addressing by the MEC and national government is the lack of sustainability to continue housing the poorest of our poor in this manner.

I refer to the Provincial Budgets and Expenditure Review book 2005-2011 from
National Treasury under chapter 6 (Human Settlements) page 95 and quote:
“The growing demand for subsidised housing, rising construction costs, and limits to available public resources create strong pressure to develop large numbers of freestanding housing units on periphery located land, which would require lower upfront costs. However, experience has shown that this reduces the economic value of these houses, and imposes significant long term costs on both beneficiary households and on government”.

In conclusion Speaker what is required in order to have a vibrant and cost effective and efficient housing scheme is:
1) Allow the creation in the main of serviced sites and a suite of other accommodation options where citizens can have choice as to how they wish to be housed.
2) Simplify the subsidy scheme.
3) Empower and create skills for individuals and communities by allowing for SWEAT equity and learning while building.
4) Streamline housing departments into cost effective facilitative departments.

Honourable Speaker by so doing the people of this province can be housed in a dignified, quick and efficient manner leading to their empowerment and increased wealth.

The Democratic Alliance supports the report.