Millions allocated for informal settlement upgrades

More than R333 million is being set aside for backyard and informal settlement upgrades across the city over the next three years.

This was revealed by the City of Cape Town in its draft budget for 2016 to 2019, last week.

It forms part of the total planned budget for the new financial year of R1.7 billion – which also includes upgrading and maintenance of housing rental stock.

In the statement, the City emphasised that the aim of increasing the successful roll-out of services to backyard dwellers and the upgrade of informal settlements over the next years will be “absolutely dependent” on the cooperation of the communities involved and the support from the beneficiaries and other partners.

In addition, the City’s electricity services department plans to spend approximately R105 million over the next two financial years on the provision of electricity services alone for backyarders residing on council property and informal settlement dwellers.

Last year, the City spent over R1.2 million for the roll-out of the Parkwood Backyarders’ Project, which included the installation of concrete panel toilets, the connection of sewer services, water connection, electrical connections and installation of prepaid meters.

Benedicta van Minnen, the City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, said there are about 45 000 backyard dwellers residing on council property.

“We are doing everything in our power to extend basic services to these residents to improve their living conditions.

“The City is the only metro in the country that has a programme to extend services to backyard dwellers living on council-owned properties. This is due to the growth of the number of backyard dwellers over the past decade,” said Ms Van Minnen.

Overcome Heights informal settlement community leader Fouzia Cassiem welcomed the proposed budget.

“I hope that we benefit from this budget and that services are increased for us but instead of upgrading informal settlements the City should look into using money to build houses for the people in informal settlements,” said Ms Cassiem.

“We have been living in Overcome Heights for the past 11 years and the conditions are terrible. Money is being wasted upgrading informal settlements, they should be building houses – that is a more permanent solution. We live like animals year in and year out with flooded homes, fires and problem toilets.

We need more than just upgrades,” she said.

Ms Van Minnen, however, said the the housing need is acute.

“It is clear that the current delivery model where government is the sole provider of housing opportunities, which consist mostly of costly traditional brick and cement housing, is simply unsustainable,” she said.

She said the increased focus on backyard dwellers, the upgrading of informal settlements and the expansion of services are therefore becoming a City priority.

According to a report “Housing from a human settlement perspective: in-depth analysis of the General Household Survey data 2002 to 2014,” released by Statistics South Africa on Wednesday April 20, the number of residents residing in backyards in Cape Town increased from 4.3 percent in 2001 to seven percent in 2011.

Also, 13.5 percent of households in Cape Town reside in informal settlements.

“The consolidated City spend on lower-income areas in Cape Town comprises some 67 percent of the total budget.

“The will and the commitment are there but I cannot emphasise enough how dependent we are on the buy-in from and collaboration with our communities,’ said Ms Van Minnen.

The public participation process on the City’s Draft Budget for the 2016/17 financial year ended on Friday April 29.