The Chairperson of the eThekwini Human Settlements and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr William Mapena, declined a request from the DA at today’s sitting for the Committee to regard with more urgency the improving the delivery of housing in eThekwini.
During the 2011/12 financial year, eThekwini Municipality delivered only 4900 houses, a fraction of the nearly 19000 houses delivered by the council at its peak in 2008. Reasons given for this slowdown in delivery of housing in eThekwini are many and varied, ranging from reduced funding from provincial government to problems with environmental legislation. The truth however, is hidden in the Manase report, giving us some idea just why council has been so reluctant to keep this report from the public.
Off the record conversations with senior housing officials during the course of this year has made it clear that eThekwini’s Housing Department got used to flouting legislation, not being compliant with regulations, and awarding contracts left right and centre – resulting in impressive output of housing. During the tenure of Mike Mabuyakhula as Human Settlements MEC, the eThekwini housing department was said to have been given near open access to funds without the onerous reporting obligations normally required. These allegations would seem to be supported by the over R432m irregular expenditure the AGs report found to have taken place in the housing department during the 2010/11 financial year.
The net result is that eThekwini Housing department, now having to comply with the regulations and report timeously to the provincial department, is struggling to get sufficient projects moving on the ground. The housing backlog in eThekwini is around 450 000 units, which would take us over 40 years to meet we’re we building houses at 2008 delivery rates and will take us well over a century at present rates.
Against this backdrop, DA councillor Warwick Chapman urged the Human Settlements and Infrastructure committee and the officials present from the Housing Department to place more urgency on the challenge of ramping up housing delivery in eThekwini. He pointed out that in the period of the last three months, not a single report had been tabled before the committee relating to the delivery of housing projects in eThekwini.
Committee chairperson councillor Wlliam Mapena glossed over Chapman’s request and later referred him to the 140 page quarterly report of the Service Delivery and Budget Implementation Plan (SDBIP) to seek answers to his request and closed the matter.
The DA in eThekwini recognises the importance of delivery sufficient housing opportunities every year in order to meaningfully improve the living conditions of over 1 million eThekwini residents who live in informal settlements. In order for the eThekwini Housing Department to ramp up the delivery of housing, the committee must take more seriously the challenges the department faces. The department must be urgently be shored up with the necessary specialist personnel to navigate the complex legislative and reporting framework required to sustainably access sufficient housing grants from the provincial department.
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