Durban is homing in on shacks

Durban is a step ahead in the slums clearance stakes, writes eThekwini’s Head of Housing Cogi Pather in an article in the Metro Ezasegagasini newspaper.

There are more than 540 informal settlements in eThekwini – the highest figure of any city on the country.

These settlements are home to about 155 000 families, and by our reckoning, eThekwini’s housing backlog stands at a total of 205 000 units, which includes informal settlements, overcrowding, and hostels.

At the rate at which the municipality is expected to continue receiving its yearly housing subsidies from the provincial and national departments of housing, we will only be able to clear the backlog by 2022.

The estimate is based on past allocations of about 16 000 subsidies a year. However we are continuing to press the departments of housing to increase their subsidies to the municipality.

We face an enormous task trying to put decent roofs over all our people’s heads. To help us do this the municipality has been developing an Informal Settlement Programme (ISP) as well as implementing a Slums Clearance Project.
The ISP involves developing a database, which covers informal settlements in the municipality.

We can then use this, along with technical criteria, to work out what to do, and where. For example, we can upgrade informal dwellings in situ, relocate them or a combination of both.

The municipality has more than 700 projects on the go.

Projects are prioritised and programmes are put in place along with timetables.
Since 1994, when the national housing subsidy programme was implemented, more than 170 000 subsidies have been approved in eThekwini. Of these, more than 100 000 houses have been completely built; the balance is in the process of being built or is in the planning stages.

Apart from housing subsidies from national and provincial government the municipality also subsidises housing projects by providing beneficiaries with a higher level of services. However, the city’s budget is limited, so the challenges are great.
Housing projects generally take three years to realise.

In the next year, there will be a focus on phase two of our slums clearance project. A number of settlements will either be relocated to greenfield projects or upgrade where they are located.

In addition, we are looking at how housing projects – catering for the lower-middle to middle-income market – can help revitalise townships such as KwaMashu and Umlazi.

There are plans to identify more opportunities in the inner city for social housing (rental) and to increase residential densities.

In terms of the national government’s partnership with the Banking Council and private-sector developers, the municipality will negotiate with developers on how a portion of their middle to high-income residential projects can include low to lower-middle income housing.

Our housing unit is also looking at ways of reducing the number of relocations from informal settlement upgrade projects by introducing different types of housing, layout designs and so forth. These initiatives will also be introduced in greenfield projects.

The idea is to make the most of good locations where infrastructural services, and social facilities are readily available, as well as where there is good access to economic opportunities and public transport. The presence of these factors make it logical to upgrade an informal settlement or for a greenfield project to be located in the vicinity.

The municipality realises that residential densities need to be increased in locations where it benefits residents as well as the municipality.

In 2005, the municipality provided 15 700 housing units – both upgrade and greenfield projects. The aim is to increase this, and given the government’s commitment – as evident in its increased national budget allocation to housing – the municipality is geared to meet its obligations.

Our municipality is regarded as one of the best when it comes to housing delivery, something that has been recognised at provincial, national and international level.

It was, therefore, not surprising that the United Nations Human settlements Programme UN-Habitat chose our city as a pilot project for its global Cities Without Slums programme. Phase one of the Slums Clearance Project has been progressing well since its inception early in 2002.

Residents from more than 50 informal settlements have been removed from unsafe and unhygienic conditions and allocated proper housing within five large greenfield projects which yielded a total of 10 500 sites.

Apart from these complete relocations there have been, and will be, relocations affecting families living in the way of infrastructural projects and housing upgrade projects.

Running in parallel to these greenfield projects are a number of in sutu upgrade projects, which will be implemented in previously disadvantaged areas. These upgrade projects affect about 3 200 families.

The municipality is in the process of planning phase two and phase three of the Slums Clearance Project.

About 80 000 households will be addressed over a six year period.

While phase one focused largely on central Durban, phase two and phase three will begin to address settlements across eThekwini.

More than 70 settlements have been earmarked for complete relocation while about 120 settlements will be upgraded in situ.

To accommodate many of the households that will need to be relocated, nearly 20 greenfield projects have been identified.

The beneficiaries will be receiving their subsidies from the Department of Housing.
The total cost in terms of housing subsidy allocation will be about R2,9 billon. The municipality will also commit itself to funding services to municipal standards as it has done in phase one.

These include tarred bus routes and internal roads, sewerage, water and electricity to each household.

Houses built will meet the Department of Housing’s minimum norms and standards, which provide for a 30sqm starter house.
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