Minister of Human Settlements, Connie September, writes a letter in response to an article posted on Business Day by Robyn Murray.
Housing is a right
IN A FAIRLY balanced article, “Informal settlements give rural poor a foothold in urban centres” (January 28), Business Day does a decent job of highlighting the challenge of in adequate housing in SA.
However, you make the mistake of assuming we can wish away the housing shortage that gives rise to informal settlements. It is important to reiterate that the provision of housing is a constitutional obligation, which all governments, not just the African National Congress, will have to fulfil.
Experts who argue that “giving away” houses is wrong need a rethink. Housing is not a theoretical equation, it is not something abstract; it is a crying pain for many people in our country. The government will not abandon its responsibilities towards the poor.
While we acknowledge the effects of urbanisation, we urge an understanding of the effects of the race-based economic exclusion and spatial planning of the past.
We also encourage South Africans in general and the experts in particular to find it in themselves to give support as the government seeks to meaningfully redress these imbalances.
Part of our efforts in the provision of housing is aimed at the creation of security of tenure for those who were denied this right before. We cannot deny the value that subsidised houses have added to the lives of citizens.
The provision of government-subsidised houses does not distort the market. The financial and property sectors need to be more realistic in their analysis of the real causes of the problems we have. On the availability of affordable stock, the government is the single biggest contributor in this bracket and continues to encourage private sector investment in contributing to the construction of affordable housing.
Housing cannot and should not be the privilege of a few, especially if we understand the role it played in entrenching racial segregation and depriving most citizens of the dignity that comes with owning property.
Minister of Human Settlements
(via BD Live)