Land availability for human settlements and improving the planning and coordination systems in government came under the spotlight at the Human Settlements and Exhibition Indaba held in Durban.
Giving a report back on plenary sessions held on Monday, Human Settlements Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi, reported that delegates reached a consensus on the areas where focus is necessary, and these included the availability of land for human settlements.
“The availability of land for human settlements is an issue that requires urgent attention. I am often reminded as the Minister of Human Settlements that [the] law empowers me to expropriate land without compensation, if necessary, provided that such land is suitable and needed for human settlements.
“I think what is important is that we need to utilise all the tools at our disposal to ensure that we satisfy land hunger in both urban and rural areas. The land issue is closely linked to planning, as we want to ensure that our planning systems are more coordinated within government institutions and between government and the private sector,” Kubayi said.
The issue of how projects that have secured funding and are ready for implementation collapse because government institutions do not make land available on time due to internal government inefficiencies came out strongly during the planning commissions.
Kubayi said the department will take this up through intergovernmental mechanisms, including the District Development Model (DDM), to deal with some of these issues.
She noted that the lack of availability of urban land is hampering government’s efforts to deal with the apartheid spatial development, and this has led to projects moving away from inner cities to the periphery, commonly referred to as urban drift.
“Urban drift is costly because it requires more investment in bulk infrastructure in greenfield projects. However, the inner city is also dealing with issues of ageing bulk infrastructure. The provision of serviced pieces of land can rapidly increase the number of housing opportunities.
“Planning is also central to ensuring that the monies are allocated to the right projects and that budgets are spent on impactful projects. We need innovative approaches to delivering houses, so that money is not returned to Treasury,” Kubayi said, adding that it should not take so long to unlock land for human settlements in various localities.
The Minister emphasised that town planning in municipalities needs to improve the turnaround time in unlocking land, warning that projects cannot collapse due to poor intra-government planning coordination.
“An accountability mechanism should be put in place at each level to ensure that we facilitate faster project development,” the Minister said.
She reiterated that government alone cannot mobilise enough resources to fund the housing sector, and that partnership with the private sector is an absolute necessity for government to be able to meet the set housing targets.
Community participation critical in sustainable housing
Kubayi further noted that community participation remains critical in creating sustainable human settlements.
“In the end, what makes human settlements is the people. That is the reason we believe that creating sustainable human settlements is just about building top structures and houses that will reduce the backlog. Our approach needs to have the active participation of communities,” Kubayi said.
Other areas identified as critical for getting the sector going include creating an ethical, capable developmental State to drive projects; crowding-in funding for projects; creating accountability mechanisms for monitoring the performance of all stakeholders, as well as the need for innovation in project development, funding and technical capacity utilisation.
The two-day indaba ended on Monday.