Give people land to build houses

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THE article entitled “Riot as police demolish shacks in Motherwell” (March 13) requires further comment.

The public violence, the destruction of houses and the loss of private property in Motherwell cannot be condoned. The illegal invasion of land, however, can also not be supported.

One needs to consider what is causing the frustration and illegal actions of the Motherwell and other affected communities in the metro.

Frustrations have built up over the past two decades as the ANC government has been unable to deliver on its political promises. Houses were promised to the poor, yet currently in the metro there is a backlog of 92000 housing units, representing some 450000 people who are living in shacks and backyard accommodation, often in atrocious conditions.

The metro’s annual report for 2011-2012 indicates that during that period 3600 houses were to be built, yet only 1682 were constructed. The reason given by the municipality was that there were delays in payments by the Eastern Cape department of human settlements for housing construction.

In projecting the 2011-2012 delivery rate, it will take the metro more than 50 years to meet the current backlog of 92000 housing units, let alone provide accommodation resulting from natural population growth and in-migration.

With respect to defective houses, 40000 have been identified for rectification work. The target for 2011-2012 was 6325, yet only 1133 were rectified.

Once again, the Eastern Cape department of human settlements is blamed for this poor record.

Another factor that contributes to community dissatisfaction and protests is the lack of an open and transparent housing waiting list that should be displayed at all municipal buildings.

It is clear that a new approach to the metro’s housing challenges is required, particularly in view that national Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale is on record stating that free RDP houses, costing more than R100000 per unit, will become unaffordable for the state to deliver.

The new approach to the metro’s housing crisis should be to make serviced land available, with basic services, such as water, electricity and water-borne sanitation. The metro should furthermore provide community advice centres where assistance is given to community members to gain the necessary skills to construct their own sustainable dwelling units.

Building material supplies stores should be provided within easy access for all communities where housing construction will take place.

State-funded houses should be provided only for those who cannot help themselves, namely the elderly, the infirm and those living with handicaps. By adopting such an approach, the energy of the people will not be directed towards building shacks in illegal areas, but rather to providing decent permanent accommodation for themselves in properly planned areas.

Unless such a new approach to housing provision is adopted by the metro as a matter of urgency, frustration will continue and increasingly manifest itself in the form of public violence.

Andrew Gibbon, DA spokesman on human settlements, Nelson Mandela Bay

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