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Rental Housing in Focus

Date Released: Fri, 24 June 2016 09:01 +0200

Rental Housing in Focus

Finding decent, well- located and safe accommodation for rental in Grahamstown is almost an impossible task. Rent is too damn high in this city even for the so-called ‘middle class’. Thus most people who are in the ‘GAP market’ end up taking rental accommodation in the poorer neighborhoods in Grahamstown East.    Studies on housing affordability suggest that when housing costs exceed 30% of the household income it becomes unaffordable. In 2014 the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) undertook a baseline study on the feasibility of social housing for low income earners in Grahamstown. The study is entitled “A baseline assessment of the demand for rental housing for the poor in Makana Municipality, Grahamstown, Eastern Cape” and can be found at http://www.psam.org.za/ .

Given the rising construction costs, the declining human settlements budgets and the growing housing backlog, a new alternative and more cost effective model is needed to meet the demand provincially and nationally. As a result, the Breaking New Ground (BNG) housing policy of 2004 and the National Housing Code of 2009 recognizes the need to promote alternative options to address the various housing needs of the South African population which includes social housing. The Eastern Cape department of Human Settlements have identified the roll out of affordable rental accommodation (also known as social housing) in the province as one of its key strategies to addressing housing supply challenges.

Social housing refers to a rental or co-operative housing option for people a low income, managed by an institutional framework that ensures it is held as a public good for the benefit of the poor. This kind of public housing mainly caters for those households that are considered ‘too rich’ to qualify for state subsidized housing but, are ‘too poor’ to qualify for a house in the private property market. Another strand of social housing is the Community Residential Unit (CRU) Programme which caters for very low income households or destitute individuals earning between R800 - R 3500 and below.

The post-apartheid government inherited a country with two different types of human settlements in stark contrast to each other - one which was highly developed and established and another with poor conditions, high levels of unemployment and poverty. The social housing programme serves two key objectives in this regard. On the one hand, it seeks to fast-track the restructuring of South African society in order to address structural, economic, social and spatial dysfunctionalities. This would be perfect for Grahamstown as it currently resembles a ‘Tale of Two Cities’, with one side of town where rich people stay and the other side of town where the poor stay. The high rental rates in town continue to perpetuate this cycle.   while on the other hand the programme seeks to improve the overall functioning of the housing sector and in particular the rental sub-component thereof in order to widen the range of housing options available to the poor.

The PSAM researcher found that there is a considerable demand for well located, affordable and acceptable accommodation for low income households in Grahamstown. 84 % of households in Makana earning below R4 800 reside in Grahamstown. Grahamstown also consists of 86 % of individuals in Makana earning between R3 201 and R 6 400. The survey revealed that 42% of respondents spend close to R500 on transport to travel to work each month. 74% of respondents indicated that they would rather rent in secure tenure with basic services than remain in poor living conditions with no basic services. When given a choice between remaining in poor living conditions and staying in social rental housing units, respondents were most likely to opt for the social rental housing option. The survey results also suggested that rental dwellers in Grahamstown are more suitable for the Community Residential Unit (CRU) programme. The CRU Programme aims to facilitate the provision of secure, stable rental tenure for lower-income individuals. The study also noted a number of challenges that will possibly hinder the implementation of social housing in Grahamstown. However, the introduction of public rental units will help bring out the necessary racial, economic, social and spatial transformation needed in Grahamstown.

*Thoko Sipungu is Human Settlements Researcher at the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) in Grahamstown based at Rhodes University

 Source: Grocott's Mail

Source:Grocott's Mail