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Mthembi-Mahanyele: Parliamentary Media Briefing (20/02/2003)

20th February 2003


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Date: 20/02/2003
Source: Ministry of Housing
Title: Mthembi-Mahanyele: Parliamentary Media Briefing, February 2003


The President's announcement of new urban renewal and integrated sustainable rural development programmes in a number of cities and villages across the country set down a huge new challenge for all of us in housing at the national, provincial, and local government levels. And not just in housing, because the integrated nature of these programmes means that we must work together with our sister departments across a range of key intervention areas. The rural and urban programmes share many goals of these interventions. They include:

* the reduction of unemployment levels;
* creation of healthy and clean environments;
* provision of services at an affordable and sustainable level;
* reduction of levels of crime and violence;
* upgrading of existing housing environments;
* creation of additional affordable housing opportunities, and
* ensuring that the action taken to improve the conditions of the identified communities involve the communities concerned.

Housing's pivotal role in achieving these goals is clear. Creating a secure and healthy housing environment within an upgraded and well-integrated community demands sustainable and affordable municipal and health services.

It can contribute to reducing unemployment and crime levels. Most importantly, it is the basis for offering regulated housing choice within manageable densities. Such an environment must provide security of tenure and access to basic services, social and economic opportunities.

The projects we are engaged in through the urban renewal programme include housing delivery, which focuses on providing housing for private ownership through the low-income housing programme and the upgrading of existing formal stock. We are also engaged in the establishment of housing support mechanisms, which will include greater access to finance and technical advice. Contributions of savings and/or sweat equity are increasingly being encouraged and rewarded in this context.

The programme involves the development of new housing via a variety of initiatives. But it also seeks to create rental-housing options through a variety of delivery mechanisms. These include upgrading and redevelopment of appropriate informal housing: a proportion of informal housing which has been constructed in backyards and in free-standing locations is retained, upgraded and redeveloped as rental accommodation.

The land-use management framework, the location and capacity of services infrastructure, and the building by-laws all influence which informal housing areas are to be upgraded and the standards to be applied.

The housing support mechanisms (including access to finance, technical advice and materials) will assist the upgrading process. The redevelopment of hostels constitutes part of the renewal programme.

Conditions in the hostels are being improved so as to create a decent and pleasant living environment for the occupants. Some de-densification to secure acceptable occupancy levels takes place where necessary. A main focus is to integrate the hostels into the surrounding areas and to incorporate non-residential uses including educational, social and economic functions in order to ensure that hostels and their inhabitants increasingly become part of the broader community.

Relocation and resettlement of households from unsafe and badly situated locations constitute part of our renewal strategy. This project focuses on relocating people living in unsafe and badly situated locations such as riverbanks or porous terrain to areas in which appropriate housing solutions can be provided. Development of an effective supporting environment for housing encourages ongoing improvement by owners and renters, including both formal and informal housing. Housing support mechanisms are being established to encourage individual initiatives of this type. The support to be provided will include plan drawing and assistance with plan approval procedures; technical advice and building construction by trained personnel; access to a range of building materials, either locally sourced or manufactured or via commercial suppliers; and access to sources of end-user finance.

Consumer-focused education on housing issues is currently underway in these projects to promote a better understanding of individual responsibilities with respect to housing. Key focus communities will include those living in institutional rental housing, those residing in hostels and owners and their private tenants. The focus of the education campaign will be to reinforce the effective functioning of the housing environment and to ensure a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of owners and tenants in particular.

The success of the Alexandra Renewal Project has provided us with important insights into best practices regarding the urban renewal programme we wish to implement in similar projects elsewhere in the country. The objective in Alexandra was to create decent accommodation for 350 000 people within Greater Alexandra by upgrading existing dwellings, de-densification, upgrading and redevelopment of free-standing informal settlements, the creation of new housing on greenfield sites, redevelopment of hostels, redevelopment of mixed use environments in existing industrial buildings and the removal of households from unsafe areas and inappropriate locations and buildings.

Among the initiatives undertaken in Alexandra are:

* Riverpark Housing Project, located on the East Bank. This project comprises 777 housing units. These houses are provided on a rent-to-own basis. The aim of the project is to provide affordable housing for people who were displaced as a result of the violence that occurred during the 1990s. Approximately R30 million including servicing of the land and developing the top structure has been invested in this project and the entire project was completed in June 2002
* The Extension 7 Housing Project, on the East Bank is an institutional housing development. The development consists of 1704 units to be disposed of by deed of sale. The cost of the project is R97 million. The servicing of the site commenced in July 2002, and construction of the top structures is underway
* The Reconstruction Area (RCA) located on Blocks 100, 101 and 102 in the South East Quadrant of Old Alexandra bounded by 1st Avenue, 8th Avenue, Roosevelt Street and London Road. The aim of the Project is to provide affordable housing within an integrated area for beneficiaries who were displaced as a result of the violence that occurred during the 1990s. The work to be undertaken includes the upgrading of informal settlements and the limited upgrading of existing sewer, storm-water and water networks to cope with the increased density in the area. Existing roads are also being repaired and overhead electrical services provided. The hostels in the area, which accommodate approximately 2200 residents, will be redeveloped in a manner, which provides a range of housing options.

Housing is also making a major contribution to integrated and sustainable rural development through the Informal Land Rights Act. Through this mechanism, we will be ensuring housing opportunities for rural households in a manner that encourages the development of existing homesteads as opposed to the creation of township-like settlements. This will impact positively on the rural landscape and ensure that we do not disrupt existing settlement patterns in rural areas. The impact of this approach can already be observed in certain parts of Sekhukhuneland and Bohlabela rural nodes, where we have already completed some of our housing projects.

Further enquiries: Mandla Mathebula on 083 304 1536
Issued by Ministry of Housing
20 February 2003


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