SPEECH NOTES BY DACRE HADDON (MPL) HUMAN SETTLEMENTS REPLY TO 2010/11 ANNUAL REPORT, EASTERN CAPE LEGISLATURE

Speaker, Madam Premier, Executive Council, Honourable Members of this Legislature, Officials, Guests.

I greet you.

We must acknowledge the effort being made in restructuring the department.

We encourage the MEC and the HOD to continue with their good work in trying to turn around this department.

This is a positive move and deserves our support if it is going to improve the quality of housing for all our people.

The Housing report before us portrays a bleak picture.

Speaker, let us examine some of the findings in the report.

Under programme 1(Administration) Finding (2) (e) it states that the department managed to reduce the backlog of 750,000 units by only 10,784 units.

The department will not be able to reduce the housing backlog by 2014 because they planned to build only 59,440 houses.

Housing construction is not only about building houses.

Housing construction is about ensuring that the beneficiaries receive legal tenure of their property.

These two concepts go hand in hand:

In the Annual Report we note that the department has exceeded target with the provision of serviced plots.

The report shows the department has the capacity to undertake this function well.

I refer to a recent article titled ‘Idle Assets’ in the Financial Mail.

In this article Yusuf Ebrahim, head of conveyancing at the legal firm Ivan Pauw and Partners says and I quote:

“The low transfer rates of subsidised houses can be blamed partially on flawed administration processes which delay the flow of subsidy funds from housing departments to developers”.

The Democratic Alliance has stated many times from this podium that there needs to be a fundamental shift away from how “mass” housing is provided to the poor.

This is why the DA prefers giving serviced plots with legal tenure to beneficiaries.

By so doing one is then giving the empowerment to individuals to organise their own housing needs in whatever way they wish.

Speaker, the DA has often said if the department can give a beneficiary legal tenure through a serviced plot many of the perennial problems highlighted in the report would be minimised .

It is disappointing that at the level of the Portfolio Committee and in the Annual Report little is said about the progress of title deed registration in the province.

The department needs to facilitate a scheme with the Deeds office as to how legal tenure can be fast tracked before housing development can begin.

This would avoid the problems of the blocking of funds.

With reference to the same Financial Mail article it is stated that in the Eastern Cape – 1994-2009 – the Deeds office has registered 224,344 state subsidised houses and sold 14,338 or 6% of houses.

The Eastern Cape, with Gauteng and the Western Cape, are the three provinces which show the highest registrations in this regard.

Speaker the Finmark Trust and Urban Landmark study shows that 1,5 million government subsidised properties are not registered at the deeds office.

This is 51% of the 2,94 million housing units built since 1994.

What can be done to fast track this process?

Firstly there needs to be a comprehensive audit of every property in the province.

I am aware that various sample audits have been in this regard in the past.

As part of this strategy there should be a multi faceted approach and several role players involved.

What an opportunity if we use interns with expired contracts that were previously in the department as information enumerators?

An added “whammy” would be that through this comprehensive audit illegal property dwellers and owners and property uses will be uncovered.

How about having various competitions among communities and contractors and conveyancing firms to fast track such processes.

This idea works successfully in the Western Cape where many recent competitions initiated by the Department of Human Settlements have seen the rapid development of many housing projects.

Speaker, what is being proposed here needs serious attention from the MEC and her department.

A title deed is the key to financial opportunity.

A title deed gives legal security of tenure to a beneficiary.

A title deed can be used to access finance from banks to uplift one from poverty.

A title deed can be handed down to family generations.

A title deed is a powerful tool.

Let us not fail our people in this matter.

I thank you.