The right to housing

Ursula Schenker, Plumstead

In recent weeks, having witnessed many similar housing conflicts (“Housing upset takes to streets”, Southern Mail, July 26), seniors have been questioning the validity of housing lists of both rental or housing opportunity allocations.

According to Section 26 of the constitution, which deals with housing, “Everyone has a right to have access adequate housing … and no one may be evicted from their home”.

As the residents continue to complain, the question now asked is who should be held accountable? Many residents have been on the waiting list for many years, and as this is not disputed and if there is only one waiting list, why the conflict?

Logic dictates that when houses are allocated, the only criteria should be the possible beneficiaries’ position on the waiting list, not the location of the project as this would offer integration which is lacking.

Upon refusal or non-acceptance of either a rental unit and/or housing opportunity on the waiting list by any potential beneficiary should be data captured, file closed, leaving them to reapply. They would then become a new applicant and given a new reference number.

Presently it would appear that the gross lack of tangible communication and transparency is causing divisiveness, also impacting and manifesting itself negatively on the community at large.

The beneficiary’s claim that them not advising the housing office that their contact details had changed find them losing their opportunity and this lack of empathy is seen as a major contributing factor.

The tendency to penalise victims and beneficiaries should therefore, be listed as non-compliant in the code of conduct of public administrators.

Adherence to the Constitution is crucial by all the relevant stakeholders and transparency must be fostered by providing the public with timely accessible and accurate information as this would be in compliance, unify and ultimately eradicate the present disharmony that exists in the community at large.

Brett Heron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, responds:

The City of Cape Town allocates housing opportunities in accordance with its allocation policy to ensure that the system for the delivery of housing is done in a fair and systematic manner and that no one jumps the queue.

Individuals must be registered as beneficiaries on the municipality’s housing database in order to be considered for a housing opportunity.

The housing database is compiled according to the national government’s subsidy criteria and allocation policy.

Housing opportunities are allocated as they become available to qualifying beneficiaries according to their dates of registration on the housing database.

Beneficiaries of new housing projects are drawn on a project-specific percentage basis from qualifying applicants who are registered on the housing database from the area where the development is being undertaken, but also from qualifying applicants residing outside of the boundaries of a given development. This is to make the allocation of housing opportunities fair and equitable for all applicants on the database, irrespective of the area in which they reside. There are 320 146 applicants on the housing database.

The two opportunities offered are rental and Breaking New Ground or BNG (previously known as RDP).

In terms of rental opportunities: We are currently allocating rental opportunities to applicants with 1991 and prior application dates, in general. Allocations are dependent upon the availability of rental units within the applicant’s “preferred” areas. These areas are noted on the applicants’ profiles.

Applicants indicate specific areas of interest for various reasons. We’ve found that qualifying seniors often want to remain in close proximity to their family members since the family member is often also the caregiver. In some cases, seniors have a sense of well-being in the knowledge that they are familiar with the area and the people. It is integral that applicants longest on the database (prior to 1991) ensure that their application is updated.

The urgency to fill these rental vacancies derives from past experiences in which vacant units are quickly vandalised or illegally occupied, thus we need to fill the vacancies as soon as possible. (i.e. when an opportunity arises but we are unable to contact an applicant, we have to move on to the next qualifying contactable applicant in line).

Councillors often request that a registration drive team assists applicants with registering as well as updating their details. In doing so seniors and disabled applicants are also given an opportunity to update their details.

In terms of Breaking New Ground (BNG/ RDP): The project steering committee will recommend – a percentage of the total opportunities that the project will yield for allocation to applicants longest on the database from outside the targeted areas – a percentage of the total opportunities that the project will yield for allocation to special needs cases on the database from within the targeted areas first, and if necessary from those longest on the database from outside the targeted areas

– The balance of these applicants are from the housing database living within the recommended targeted area/s – the project manager is responsible for submitting the completed allocation request form via the agreed process to the executive director for approval of the recommended project specific targeted areas and percentage beneficiary splits.

The application dates reached for consideration in BNG-type opportunities would thus depend on the total opportunities within the project. For example, project size (bigger/smaller) affects the number of opportunities granted. As a result, applicants with older dates/ more recent dates are thus reached.