OVER the last three-and-a-half years, the government has been quietly demolishing and rebuilding matchbox RDP houses that were built in the first few years of democracy.
To date, more than R500 million has been spent on this national project, and projections are that the total cost will be in excess of R2 billion.
The plan is to spend on average R190 million a year on better quality and bigger four-roomed family homes. And hopefully, all sub-standard matchbox houses will be wiped off.
The one-roomed and two-roomed structures - built between 1994 and 1996 - have been condemned for being of poor quality and sub-standard. They are being replaced by proper four-roomed houses.
The demolishing and rebuilding process is part of the rectification of RDP houses programme which is currently being rolled out countrywide. The project started in 2006 after the National Home Builders Registration Council released new specifications for low-cost houses.
Kaba Kabagambe, the deputy director-general of the Human Settlements Department, confirmed that the project was already underway in most provinces.
"Government is rectifying the mistakes made before the introduction of the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) in 1997," he said.
Kabagambe said the houses, which were being demolished and rebuilt, were those constructed between 1994 and 1996.
Johan Minnie, the department's chief director for information management, supported Kabagambe and said: "In 2005 the department received reports that certain housing projects undertaken since 1995 have severe problems. Some related to incomplete and structurally compromised units, and others were vandalised for a various of reasons including community dissatisfaction with either the housing process followed or the quality of the units.
"At that time, the national housing programme did not exist in terms of which provinces could approve funds to rectify the defects. A new programme was therefore developed and instituted after approval by the minister."
An estimated 7 400 units would be demolished and rebuilt this year alone. Minnie admitted that the project would affect delivery on the housing backlog.
He said the government had no option because some of the houses were so badly constructed they were deemed unsafe for human habitation and therefore had to be demolished. "The programme will be terminated as soon as the last houses are rectified," Minnie said.
In its election manifesto, the ANC declared that 2,6 million houses had been built for the poor since 1994. It is not clear how many of these have been condemned and will be rebuilt, and no cost is being spared in the new housing programme.
While the old houses cost between R12 000 to R15 000 to build and were 16m2 and 20m2, the new four-roomed houses will cost between R55 000 to R58 000 and would be 36m2 and 40m2.