Housing delivery has been an ongoing and contentious issue in South Africa since the first democratic elections in 1994. The government committed to providing affordable housing to all those who were unable to access it themselves. Since 1994, 2.4million houses have been built, with a further 3 million to be built in the next 15 years. However, the current backlog is already estimated at around 2.1 million, and this is expected to increase in the coming years. Cape Town alone has a backlog of around 260 000 and this increases by 20 000 each year. Initially the housing development only included low-cost housing for those who earned less than R2500 a month. This group would receive housing subsidies, and would not have to pay rent on the households. However, it soon became necessary to develop rental housing for those in a slightly higher income bracket (ie. R3000 – R8000 a month) who did not receive housing subsidies, and this was known as social housing. This project was known as Breaking New Ground (BNG), and led to the establishment of the Social Housing Foundation (SHF).
Under the SHF, numerous different forms of housing projects were established. These included social housing initiatives started by private sector companies, co-operative housing initiatives, communal residential housing (which will replace the old hostels), housing developments by local and provincial government, and transitional and special needs housing. The SHF supports these different housing initiatives through funding and expertise (the original funding coming from a range of international donors, including USAID, DANIDA, the EU, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, VROM, Rooftops Canada, NORAD, and Aedes).
The flagship pilot project was the Gateway Housing Project in Cape Town. This initiative was not hugely successful – it took significantly more time and money to complete than expected; and resulted in many people from the nearby Joe Slovo informal settlement having to move to different areas, as they could not afford the new housing. Many of the units were also poorly built; and despite construction being completed in 2006, many of the units remain empty. The new Minister of Human Settlement has just undertaken a project to tear down and re-build 40 000 poorly-built houses in provinces around the country. Although necessary, this project will cost taxpayers a huge amount, on top of the original cost of building the housing in the first place. Other social housing projects have also been unsuccessful. Because of the focus on low-density housing (single or double storey only, in open spaces), many are built far out of town and away from necessary services and infrastructure such as transport, employment opportunities, healthcare, water, sanitation and electricity.
Thus, the roll-out of affordable housing has been problematic in South Africa, and many groups have been unable to access viable housing options.