As a country we need to prioritise the acquisition and development of land for settlement purposes if we are to make any impact on the demand for housing. Between 1994 and 2014 the South African government provided more than 2.5 million houses and some 1.2 million serviced sites, but the housing backlog nevertheless increased over this same period from 1.5 million to 2.1 million units.
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NGO’s must also call for Human Settlements departments (at all spheres) to have equal, if not more decision making powers with regard to spatial planning, land use planning and management (inclusive of land disposal) at all spheres.
This could be done firstly by calling for amendment of the GIAMA [Government Immovable Asset Management Act, No. 19 of 2007], in section 5(1)(a) that states that “An immovable asset must be used efficiently and becomes surplus to a user if it does not support its service delivery objectives at an efficient level and if it cannot be upgraded to that level;” As petty as it seems, it should be changed to “….Service delivery and/or human settlements objectives…” Service delivery, conveniently, is restricted to access to basic services, so the state is not bound to consider human settlements when deciding to sell land. Section 5(1)(iii) speaks of the consideration of the land for socio-economic objectives and lists a couple but does not specify human settlements.
The disposal of land should not go through without the consultation of the Human Settlement departments at all government spheres, who should indicate that they do not need that land for housing.
Calling for stricter controls when the state wants to sell off well-located land. Well-located land should be prioritised for human settlements instead of being sold off. Only when Human Settlements (departments at all three spheres) agree should well-located land be sold. Obviously this will be debateable due to the fact that the value of the land would ultimately increase the per unit costs of construction. However, I would be daring to add that well-located land should actually be devolved at a massive discount, if not at a full discount, to the Human Settlements department or directorate due to the cross-generational socio-economic benefits that would arise for the beneficiaries overtime, due to the good location. Overtime these benefits would surpass the once off cash injection of a sale of the piece of land in question.
Urban Land Policy Researcher