The Herald Online **News**

The Herald Online **News**

Political interference, poor planning and inadequate skills have resulted in the metro being faced with a major housing crisis
THE DA is deeply concerned with the ANC’s dismal record of housing delivery for the poor in the metro, as well as the standard of low-income housing being delivered to metro citizens.
The DA has received a disturbing increase in complaints from affected communities and individuals, yet attempts by the DA to debate these problems at committee level have been blocked by the ANC.
It is regrettable that the NMMM has, over the past five years, done little to meet the housing expectations of its citizens, and the municipal waiting list for people requiring housing is in a shambles. Housing, when available, appears to be allocated in an ad hoc manner, and the sophisticated computerised housing waiting list of the former Port Elizabeth Municipality appears to have been “lost”.
This list consisted of some 25 000 families of all races. Some of these families, particularly from former black and coloured areas, had their names on the list for more than 25 years.
With the advent of the new democracy, such families surely deserved priority housing, but they have since had to re-register and their applications have joined the queue of later applicants.
The number of families requiring housing in the NMMM area is estimated at 75 000, of which 80 per cent earn less than R1 500 a month. The waiting list for housing will grow to 120 000 families by 2020 – and the people need to be told what is being done to tackle this immense problem.
When Executive Mayor Nceba Faku opened the metro council in January last year, he promised 26 000 housing units would be built by June of that year. In a report to the housing and land committee on July 20, 2004, the business unit manager reported that only 9 000 units had been constructed – a mere 35 per cent of the mayor’s target and a shocking performance in any terms.
In analysing the lack of delivery, it is clear that finance was not a constraint, as the provincial government appears to have underspent its housing funding. A combination of the following appears the likely causes for the current crisis in delivery:
 Undue political interference.
 Lack of capacity of the politicians involved in decision-making.
 Poor planning.
 Lack of capacity of the business unit.
 Poor workmanship and inadequately-skilled artisans involved in the construction of low income houses.
 Poor or non-existing project supervision.
 Private sector unable to compete with the standards of the metro house, which is provided with a R2 500 over and above the national housing subsidy of approximately R28 000.
Clearly, the political responsibility for the under-provision of housing must rest, in the first instance, with the executive mayor and, secondly, with the portfolio councillor in charge of housing delivery.
Of major concern to the DA is the poor standard of construction of many of the new houses. DA councillor Jeremy Davis has repeatedly drawn the council’s attention to poor housing construction in the Kamesh area in his ward.
Should death or injury result from a house collapsing due to poor workmanship, the metro will be faced with litigation.
The DA has raised other examples of similar proportions. Last month, Uitenhage DA councillor Robin Williams asked the municipal manager to act on living conditions of informal shack dwellers in the Kabah-Langa area. Williams wrote: “√∂We were shocked at the living conditions. Not only was the area still wet, but hovels which served as shacks were not fit for animals, let alone human beings.
“There were no toilets, and there were numerous metro houses nearby standing vacant – vandalised houses that have been unoccupied for four months.”
Needless to say, this problem has not made its way on to a housing and land committee agenda for debate --- and one must question the reason for this omission.
The problem of unoccupied newly-constructed, low-income houses is not confined to Uitenhage. There are hundreds of newly-built vacant houses in Motherwell that have been seriously vandalised.
The ruling party has clearly lost political direction in the housing field. Some ANC councillors do not appear to know what is going on in their own wards.
This is reflected in a circular dated March 15, 2005 from the office of the executive mayor to ward councillors, in which they are requested to identify vacant houses in their wards built with national housing finance. It is unthinkable that with a demand in excess of 75 000 housing units, houses should stand empty for four months and be vandalised and destroyed --- apparently without the knowledge of the affected ward councillors.
We can no longer stand by and permit this situation to continue.
To cap the ANC’s poor housing delivery record, at the March 15 meeting of the housing and land committee, it was requested that 22 523 houses to be built from the metro’s capital programme for 2004/05 be removed, as the required finance was not forthcoming from the provincial department of housing, local government and traditional affairs in Bhisho.
One must question if the reason for the withholding of provincial funds could not be directly related to the auditor general’s damning report concerning malpractices in housing administration in the metro. This report has not been made public, and has not been circulated to councillors serving on the housing and land committee.
A copy of the report has, however, been leaked to the media, and the contents are now widely known.
One wonders what has happened to the ANC’s highly-publicised policy of transparency and accountability. The people of the metro deserve a better deal from those politicians they voted into power at the last municipal election.
 Andrew Gibbon is a DA councillor in the Nelson Mandela Metropole and former Port Elizabeth municipal director of housing.

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