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Tuesday Feb 04, 2014

Minister and banks meet over housing

Human Settlements Minister Connie September held a meeting yesterday with the chief executives of South Africa's major banks to discuss issues related to housing.

The Human Settlements Department earlier said the meeting was part of an existing initiative to strengthen its relationship with the banking sector. The initiative was started by the late Joe Slovo when he was minister of housing and was continued by other ministers in the portfolio.

The department's name was changed from housing to human settlements after the 2009 general election.

The department said the focus had shifted from seeing housing as just a roof over people's heads to providing sustainable and integrated human settlements where people could work, pray, play and have access to amenities.

In a statement issued before the meeting, September said: 'Over the next five years, the department plans to provide over 1 million housing opportunities, provide basic services to the poor, provide basic services to informal communities and address the backlogs in sanitation.'
She said a critical objective was to revitalise the housing market and 'crowd in' sizeable volumes of private capital to support the affordable housing market.

The key question was what else needed to be done to secure significant levels of capital to support this market.

Flanked by Cas Coovadia, the managing director of the Banking Association of SA (Basa), September said at a media briefing that she regularly met stakeholders.

'We engage with financial institutions, banks and Basa. Going forward, what trajectory do we put forward, particularly in the next five years?
'The banks help by providing home loans. We will continue to have a relationship with other stakeholders, apart from banks,' September said.

The department said support institutions played an important role in enhancing norms and standards as well as making housing and housing-related needs more accessible to all South Africans, in addition to the roles played by provincial governments and municipalities.

September said the department had rental subsidies for affordable housing.

One of the department's areas of responsibility was to provide housing subsidies to the poor, mainly those who earned less than R3 500 a month. Housing subsidies were paid directly to the seller of a house on behalf of the qualifying beneficiary. In new developments, the subsidy was used to finance the construction of a house that complied with minimum norms and standards.

September said she wanted to make sure there were more players in the housing market.

'We structure efficient relationships with banks. We now have a task team, not for the sake of having a task team.

'We want to crowd in affordable housing. In the next 10 days, the banks will identify what is affordable. Our goal is more housing and we are extremely delighted we had this meeting.'
September said the department was represented on the task team by two people.

She had undertaken to have discussions with other government departments.

Coovadia said Basa had identified four areas of interest in the National Development Plan, one of which was human settlements. The others were other government departments, infrastructure and finance.

He said: 'From 2003, we have thrown in R3 billion in housing. We need to get housing on the ground. We want to identify short-term issues. There is a time frame for deliverables.'

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