Restructure of towns and cities
Affordable rental programme must go beyond simply providing decent shelter, writes
THE affordable rental programme is an integral part of sustainable human settlements where it aligns to all current housing programmes developed under Breaking New Ground and incorporated into the 2009 Housing Code that seeks to address spatial injustice.
It requires that the programme should deliberately bring about change to appropriately contribute to sustainable human settlement. The programme must be able to facilitate growth, development and transformation of affordable rental as an important urban programme.
The programme is one where the focus goes beyond the immediate objective of access to adequate shelter to an intervention where the positive impact on people’s lives, the economy and the urban environment must be achieved.
Obstacles arising from the economic structure and spatial patterning of South African society have proven stubborn and persistent. In some instances, post-apartheid programmes have even inadvertently reinforced apartheid inequities.
The National Development Plan directed that, for the creation of sustainable human settlements, a systematic response to entrenched spatial patterns across all geographic scales that exacerbate social inequality and economic inefficiency is required.
Delivery of affordable rental must be used to restructure towns and cities, strengthen the livelihood prospects of households and transform the economy by changing the access to and flow of resources.
Affordable rental must be undertaken and facilitated in a coherent way where it creates good living environments for residents. This implies not only new urban development but strongly suggests a focus on urban renewal in the targeted investment approach with good urban management as a key component of implementation. Since affordable rental is a supply side-driven programme, economic transformation across the entire value chain must also be achieved.
Affordable rental delivery must be scaled-up significantly. This will require a vision for the programme, which sets bold targets supported by a gear-up of the required funding and financing as well as capacity to deliver. A supportive and strong regulatory environment can assist to ensure a properly focused affordable rental programme.
A more coherent and inclusive approach to urban land by, for instance, developing overarching principles for spatial development and revising the regulations and incentives for housing and land use management would be important. This also includes building the capabilities to transform human settlements and developing bolder measures for sustainable human settlements.
The goal is therefore to improve spatial planning and targeting for affordable rental in urban areas which may include mining towns and catalytic projects, prioritised by Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. This requires a precinct-based planning approach in consultation with municipalities such that projects may be conceptualised, planned and developed based on solid and current socio-economic and geospatial information where the restructuring intent can be realised.
The objective is to contribute strongly towards the achievement of urban restructuring and renewal through urban integration and impacting positively on urban economies. This must be achieved to ensure that the poor are not pushed further away to distant and marginal locations. A spatially more compact growth form will improve the efficiency of service delivery and reduce the costs of urban governance.
Improved spatial planning and targeting may contribute to an affordable rental project pipeline where budget allocations may begin to be linked to not only the development of the projects but also the management capacity requirements where the targeted investment would, ultimately, create development and management opportunities that can be aligned with economic transformation.
Restructuring and transformation is not only social and spatial but also includes a strong economic component to create less fragmentation and a healthier society with sufficient access to resources.
An affordable rental programme must include strategic planning that not only focuses on growth or setting targets but that introduces a capacitated delivery model with a proactive investment approach that operates within a strong risk-based regulatory environment.
Improved equitable spatial planning and targeting can potentially not only increase delivery but also strengthen the link required between the different spheres of government to facilitate a successful affordable rental programme.
This relates to a common spatial vision to connect urban areas by developing an environment and communities that are inclusive, integrated, connected and where all collaborate to create living and working environments that are healthy, safe, enabling and accessible.
If this vision is not shared to ensure poor residents have access to our urban area’s unique lifestyle offering, affordable rental housing unravels at the seams.
Recently, the minister approved adjustments to the Social Housing Programme. These include:
a) The shift in income bands – this means the raising of the lower qualifying household income limit for the primary market from R3 500 to R5 500 a month. It also means the raising of the upper qualifying household income limit from R7 500 to R15 000 a month.
b) An increase in the Restructuring Capital Grant from R125 615 a unit to R155 000 a unit.
This is to ensure that the social housing programme continues to remain focused on including the primary target market in well-located projects so that the poor are integrated in the cities. Due to erosion caused by inflation over the years, the programme was no longer able to achieve this, but the adjustments help to bring in the required revenue from families in the gap market so that the programme can continue to accommodate families on the lower end of the income ladder.
It is expected that an affordable rental programme that addresses these goals and objectives may ensure that sustainable human settlement facilitates transformation where socially fragmented people become part of a healthier society with access to good and useful space. It can also ensure better access to the economy and resources where an actively transformed supply value chain may be achieved.
In addition to its primary impact of contributing to addressing spatial constraints to economic access it will contribute to job creation and economic revitalisation.
Job creation will be enhanced via the construction of complete (as opposed to incremental) homes, which means greater primary, secondary and subsequent employment multipliers. Job creation is also served by the creation of employment opportunities in the management and maintenance of stock.
Affordable rental may also be a tool in the revitalisation/regeneration of important economic areas which are lagging or under-performing. Successful regeneration initiatives in other parts of the world indicate that comprehensive strategies are necessary and that the introduction of affordable rental housing into blighted environments has had positive external impacts on the surrounding environments. Successful economic revitalisation boosts job creation.
Dewalt Koekemoer is sector development transformation executive of the Social Housing