Volume 1 No 7(2004)
 

 

N HIS STATE OF THE NATION Address, President Mbeki gave the Minister of Housing three months to develop a comprehensive housing plan “dealing with human settlements and social infrastructure, including rental-stock housing for the poor”. On 1 September, Cabinet approved the new Housing Plan. The Housing Plan represents a radical departure from the previous Housing Policy. Instead of focusing quite narrowly on housing provision, the Housing Plan reflects a comprehensive approach to human settlements, thereby including a focus on community infrastructure and economic opportunity.

A key concern in the Plan is to halt and overcome the urban sprawl and continued segregation characterising most South African cities and towns. To achieve greater densification and integration, the Plan does not shy away from engaging with land and housing markets – a challenge that has largely been sidestepped until now so as not to upset key interests in the city. Social housing is promoted as one of the instruments to ensure access to well-located, yet affordable housing for the poor. This commitment to target well-located public and private land, together with other progressive proposals in the Housing Plan (such as the redesigned subsidy scheme, which distinguishes between ‘hard-core poor’, ‘poor’ and ‘middle-income’; a job creation strategy related to housing construction, infrastructure development and management of assets; and, proposed measures to target rural dwellers, farm workers, people with disabilities and women, amongst others), creates a strategic opportunity for civil society to critically engage with the strategies, policies and instruments flowing from the Housing Plan to ensure that these will result in equitable, inclusive and sustainable human settlements. Let’s take on the challenge!

Firoz Khan, an Associate of Isandla Institute, has contributed this issue’s Thought Matters. Firoz is contracted to the national Department of Housing as researcher. He serves on the Intergovernmental Task Team of the N2 Lead-Pilot Project as the Cape Town-based representative of the Department. He writes here in his personal capacity. This is an abridged version of a longer document available on our website (http://www.isandla.org.za), which readers are encouraged to refer to for more detail.

   
 
 


The N2 Informal Settlement Upgrade Lead-Pilot Project, by Firoz Khan

Setting the Scene
Prominent urbanists constantly remark that of all our cities, Cape Town, after ten years of democracy, remains the most untransformed and inequitable. Elite-mediated integration of the city into the globalising economy is intensifying socio-economic exclusion. Service backlogs continue to grow; rising TB infection and infant mortality rates indicate a worsening health situation; unemployment levels have consistently increased over the last five years; and, income disparities are widening.

Our slums and shantytowns are the starkest material manifestation of our grotesquely divided, unequal society. Our so-called ‘world-class/globally competitive’ city is also known as the ‘Shack Capital of South Africa’. With a current housing backlog of 245,000 – and 16,000 new households requiring housing each year – the delivery rate of only 11,000 per annum spells a bleak future for the city’s squatter citizens. What renders the situation worse in Cape Town is not only the City’s inability to articulate, champion and drive a coherent programme of action to address these problems and dilemmas. More important is its under-estimation of the depth of the crisis and the sheer magnitude of need. The City’s Servicing of Informal Settlements Project (SISP) is a case of point. Designed to deliver basic services to the City’s 140 informal settlements over a five year period, the SISP is premised on static informal settlement growth. While the budget for SISP rises to R248 million in 2006/07, it is still in two years time based on servicing the needs of the existing 85,000 households resident in informal settlements. If the Census figures of 2001 of informally housed families are employed, the backlog is pegged at 142,983. Assuming that 30% of the 16,000 new households will resort to living in informal settlements and factoring in the delivery targets of SISP, the number living in shacks in 2006/7 will roughly be 163,610. It is abundantly clear from these figures – which are crude and hence not incontestable – that without radical intervention, housing conditions are set to worsen in our city (a growing backlog) and informal settlements will balloon.

The capabilities and capacities of the City to cope with these challenges is rendered more formidable given that local government is a poorly defined actor in the shelter sector. A further factor complicating an integrated inter-spherical resolution of Cape Town’s housing crisis is that our co-operative governance regime is well-developed as a set of political and financial relationships, but relatively under-developed in specific policy/programmatic areas. This insight holds true for local economic development, rural development, urban renewal, integrated development planning and housing.

Against this backdrop, the national Department of Housing, with its refocused housing strategy – impelled by (amongst others) under-spending; declining delivery rates; the persistent growth of informal settlements; withdrawal of large private sector contractors from the housing programme; poor alignment of plans, programmes and budgets across spheres; limited capacity of municipalities to meet their shelter obligations – entered into a dialogue with the City of Cape Town around the upgrading of informal settlements (commencing September 2003). It was also during this time that the Department commenced intensive research into an informal settlement upgrade strategy as the existing instruments – in particular the capital subsidy – was considered ill-suited to support the consolidation of informal settlements. Programmatic and policy realignments/refinements coupled to a growing urgency in government circles to arrest the growth of informal settlements in the major cities – particularly Shack Capital – was one set of forces that drove national-city engagement.

Another set of forces related to a fortuitous confluence of political alignments at national, provincial and local levels. This created the space for the crafting of an innovative and developmental co-operative governance regime with the potential to re-invigorate and re-energise ongoing attempts to improve the alignment of resources and programmes. In other words, when the engagement between the City and the national Department began, the possibility presented itself to graft a revamped (emerging) housing strategy – progressively cohering around sustainable human settlement development versus narrow housing delivery - onto an institutional frame whose developmental impulses were politically more robust and geared to improving the shelter conditions of citizens who live under the daily threat of their livelihoods being decimated by fire and who are yearly the victims of floods. Subsequent policy developments and greater refinement of programmes and instruments have greatly elevated the status of the intervention catapulting it to pilot and lead project - ratified by Cabinet - to test the efficacy and appropriateness of the Department of Housing’s new shelter plan.

The Project’s Reach, Materiality and Institutional Mechanics
The informal settlements targeted by this project bound the N2 Freeway between the City of Cape Town and the Cape Town International Airport (see map). These areas were prioritised because they suffer acute shelter and income poverty; income levels are very depressed; education levels are extremely low; unemployment is three times higher than in the rest of the Western Cape; and, access to adequate water, sanitation and energy is poor, although slowly improving. These factors combine to create a socially toxic environment characterised by high levels of contact and social fabric crime.

The envisaged project intervention is multi?pronged comprising a combination of effecting immediate improvement in the quality of people’s lives through the provision of basic services to all citizens; sustainable and integrated upgrading and planning of settlements in areas deemed suitable for human habitation so as not to disrupt/destroy the delicate socio?economic fabric underpinning the livelihood and coping strategies of the poor; and, the re?establishment of communities displaced by de?densification and those residing on unsuitable land to areas within and/or near the urban core thereby maximising access to employment opportunities and social amenities.

The Project has four phases, although these are not necessarily separate depending on funding arrangements and inter-spherical programmatic alignments. The four phases are:

  1. Basic service provision (to effect an immediate improvement in the lives of citizens with the view to minimising health and safety risks);
  2. Incremental upgrading of services (to national minimum norms);
  3. Full service provision (compliant with normal township development standards) for those settlements located on land suitable for human habitation; and,
  4. Housing consolidation/top structure construction.

For those households to be resettled to localities within and around the city, a similar process will be followed; i.e. movement from basic to full services and housing consolidation.

It has been calculated that the Project has to provide 14,300 housing opportunities, which includes over 4,000 backyard dwellers from neighbouring suburbs. The estimated usable land will provide 6,774 housing opportunities. This means that just over 7,500 households will need to be resettled. A gross land area of roughly 75 hectares is required to accommodate these households. Various parcels of land have been identified for the re-establishment of communities near existing settlements and closer/in the urban core.

The City of Cape Town is the main implementation agency of the project. Provincial and national Departments of Housing aim to provide support to the initiative via (inter alia) facilitating access to land; unlocking and mobilising funding; streamlining regulations and fast tracking applications; and, fostering an enabling and empowering implementation environment. A working Memorandum of Understanding/Operational Agreement enshrines this division of labour and responsibilities and also identifies the critical success factors. Although other Departments and spheres of government are not bound by the working Memorandum of Understanding/Operational Agreement, the commitment to sustainable and integrated human settlement development demands partnerships with a range of actors inside and outside the state. Working arrangements (some of which exist (*) but will be strengthened further) will soon be engineered with other Departments such as Land Affairs*, Public Works, Social Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Local and Provincial Government *, Science and Technology, Public Enterprises, and Transport. Other partners identified include the Housing Institutions, various parastatals, international NGOs and civil society organisations. The project will also draw on the expertise of project managers associated with the Cato Manor and Alexandra reconstruction and renewal initiatives, and inputs from authorities based at universities and policy-research institutes.

The Business Plan for this project is being generated through close co-operation and collaboration between the three spheres of government, but guided by the inputs gathered from wider stakeholder consultations. A first round of consultations took place in March 2004 and the second in August 2004. At each consultation, working versions of the Business Plan were presented for public input and commentary, which informed subsequent Business Plan deliberations. These consultations have activated civil society organisations’ engagement with communities, recording their viewpoints and mobilising them around this project. Business Plan-drafting is also guided by the political directives of the Mayor in her consultations with Councillors at various levels.

The Business Plan is at an advanced stage of completion. Six Working Groups (Finance, Economic Development, Land, Housing Typologies, Communication and Participation and Community Facilities), comprising high ranking officials from various departments in provincial and local government input into the Business Plan, which is further refined by an Intergovernmental Task Team of senior officials of the municipality, provincial and national Departments of Housing. The respective officials of the Task Team report directly to the Mayor, MEC and Minister of Housing. Their links to these politicians (who are in regular contact with one another) enables rapid resolution of problems and speedy decision making. When the Business Plan is complete, it will form the foundation for the reformatting of the existing Memorandum of Understanding/Operational Agreement into a Declaration/Inter-Governmental Developmental Agreement, serving as a binding commitment on all spheres of government to dedicate the necessary time, effort and resources to bring the project to successful fruition. The final Business Plan along with the Declaration/Inter-Governmental Developmental Agreement will be submitted to Cabinet for full endorsement and approval.

Concluding comments
This project is without doubt a bold initiative and its scale is pretty significant. Through this intervention, the three spheres of government will collectively contribute to drastically reducing the shelter poverty of over 10,000 households, 97% of whom reside in shacks. The dent that the project makes on addressing the housing needs of the inadequately housed families in the Western Cape is in the order of 7%.

Over and above its direct material impact, the initiative spearheads a revamped shelter programme which departs quite fundamentally from the narrow delivery-oriented, supply-side RDP type-housing interventions of the recent past. The distinguishing feature of this project is that it is attuned and referenced to the aims and objectives of second generation/Decade of Freedom policy reforms encompassing sustainability, empowerment, expansive citizenship, the restoration of human dignity and poverty eradication. At city scale, its grounding in the IDP principles of community empowerment, integrated neighbourhood interventions and structural integration of the city (‘focussing development on the urban core’) could potentially transmit important clues about how to construct stairways between the First and Second World economies through the strategic deployment/investment of public resources in tenure forms that build the social and public economy.

The project’s success hinges on the negotiation of a series of complex problematics which include agreement on land for resettlement and effecting changes in land use; streamlining of regulatory processes; provision and rapid release of sustained funding; continued political support beyond electoral cycles; and the forging of productive relations between state, civil society and communities. The Task Team and Working Groups are engaging these problematics and substantial progress is registered on all fronts.

In conclusion, the lessons derived from this project – a critical component of which revolves around a robust re-engineering of co-operative governance relationships around a new strategy through a project/area-based approach - will no doubt yield valuable insights into how to improve resource and programmatic realignments. Additionally, present and future shelter programmes of government will benefit from lessons gleaned related to how diverse funding sources; variable and differential institutional capabilities/capacities; community ingenuity and resourcefulness; and, area-based interventions can be mobilised and harnessed in pursuit of multi-faceted and multi-sectoral formal and informal settlement development. Numerous Departments from the three-spheres of government have shown keen interest in the project and are observing its development with a view to improving their own practice and performance.

   
 
 
E ARE not receiving as much feedback on issues raised in previous Isandla Development Communiqués as a few months ago. Since the purpose of the newsletter is to stimulate critical debate in the development sector, we once again invite you to send your feedback to admin@isandla.org.za.
   
 
 


ARK ROAST No. 18, written by Ebenezer Obadare, is available on our website. Ebenezer writes about a consumer boycott of cell phone companies in Nigeria in protest against perceived exploitation. The paper raises interesting questions about the usefulness or reliability of technology as an instrument of social activism and, perhaps more importantly, about the usefulness of technology as a mechanism for the socio-economic empowerment of ordinary citizens.

In August, the Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the School of Government, University of the Western Cape (UWC), released the report Livelihoods, Vulnerability and Food Insecurity in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. The study was conducted on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. The report reviews key policies and programmes that relate to food security and are either targeted directly at residents of Khayelitsha, or have the potential to impact on them. It also engages quite critically with how poverty and food security are defined and how such interpretations inform strategies and tools to target those considered poor and lacking food security. For further information or a copy of the report, please contact Ben Cousins at bcousins@uwc.ac.za.

   
 
 

N 26-29 September, SALGA hosted its Annual Conference at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town. On behalf of Isandla Institute, Sue Parnell acted as a resource person and participant on the panel on Local Economic Development (LED) & Poverty.


 

Contact details
Acting Director: Jacqui Boulle
PO Box 12263 Mill Street
Cape Town, 8001
admin@isandla.org.za
Website: www.isandla.org.za.

Editorial collective: Edgar Pieterse, Katharine McKenzie
and Mirjam van Donk