The announcement by the National Department of Human Settlements that they will eradicate the Nelson Mandela Metro housing backlog of 71 000 units by 2016 — while welcome — is a pipe dream.
By making such a pronouncement one is creating hope among beneficiaries and communities that may not materialise.
It is unacceptable and unfair to play on the hopes and emotions of vulnerable citizens in this way.
This is a political ploy by the ruling party to secure votes ahead of the 2016 council elections in which there is a real chance the ruling party will lose power in this metro.
Currently the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro can’t attain building targets of 3 500 units per annum.
I have been informed by my councillor colleague in the metro that the backlog figure is closer to 91 000 units.
If one adds to this a further 40 000 houses that need rectification, the real housing backlog in this metro is 130 000 units.
With all municipalities and metros under financial strain the cost to build 90 000 houses at R100 000 per unit will be R900 million (excluding rectification costs), an unaffordable amount in any current budget.
To build 90 000 units in three years would equate to constructing 30 000 units a year — 10 times more than what is being achieved as an annual metro housing target at present.
In an 11-month period (allowing for a month building holidays) and possible delays not accounted for at best this would equate to building 2,727 units a month or 682 units per week.
This is a tall order given the current staff and contractor capacity within the metro.
I will be asking at next week’s meeting of the Portfolio Committee of Human Settlements for a detailed report of this ambitious plan.
The MEC for Human Settlements, Helen Sauls-August, needs to explain in detail how this plan will be rolled out and whether it is realistically achievable.
The plan would need to give specifics about staff and contractor capacity, timeframes and budget costing.
The DA believes that what is needed to solve this metro, the provincial and national housing backlog is the following:
• The releasing of well-located land with full services, giving every beneficiary legal tenure of a plot;
• There must be more emphasis on building well located, social- and mixed housing rental units;
• Greater focus on building houses with alternative technologies and moving away from expensive brick and mortar construction.
By so doing, this creates opportunity and choice for beneficiaries to decide how they wish to be housed and become involved in the building of their houses rather than being passive recipients as is now the case.
This province needs to get real about housing and set achievable targets to create “access to adequate housing” as cited in Section 26 of the Constitution.