Call for planning boost to speed housing delivery

Boosting municipal and provincial planning department capacities would speed up delivery on Government’s key strategy of producing low cost and economic housing.


RealNet property group CEO Tjaart van der Walt says lack of planning capacity is universal and the private sector faces the same problems, increasingly manifesting as long lead times to new housing starts, accompanied by increased holding costs, which translate into higher prices for the end user.


“However, without diminishing the private sector’s problems, the fact is that economic forces absorb the associated stresses in that market, simply through pricing and the supply and demand mechanism.


“The problem is however more complex at the low cost end of the market - here issues of social stability, social responsibility, crime and the need for wealth creation all come into play. And if these are not addressed, they could have serious repercussions not only for home affordability but for job creation and overall economic growth.”


Van der Walt says a reliable, if somewhat crude, yardstick for addressing the problem would be to simply double the capacities of the planning departments, if not in manpower per se, then at least in terms of processes and systems.


He notes that planning bottlenecks are not unique to SA. Strong global growth accounts for similar bottlenecks in many countries. Drawing on both international and local experience therefore, some of the measures that could be considered include:


  • Simplifying compliance regulations.
  • Use of advanced IT systems to speed up overall processes.
  • Adopting standardised critical pathflow processes across provincial borders to ensure consistent decisions within sensible timeframes.
  • Reducing turnover of experienced planning staff.
  • Fast tracking training in the private sector via aggressive new subsidies.
  • Perhaps embarking on an aggressive recruitment drive internationally.
  • Re-employing skilled individuals lost to town planning departments due to retrenchments and early retirements as part of employment equity and BEE programmes.
 Government will also, Van der Walt says, need to address the availability of land for housing. “And in this context at least, Government is reportedly considering re-introducing what is really an 1980s model of housing delivery - where State-owned land across the country was allocated for housing development - as opposed to the current model which is focused on expropriation of private sector land.”
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