Hope for the homeless

Housing is a key challenge, second only to unemployment, facing the country 12 years after the advent of our democracy.

Housing is a key challenge, second only to unemployment, facing the country 12 years after the advent of our democracy.

In spite of massive government spending the demand for housing has not abated. Increased urbanisation and homelessness are the main factors leading to the mushrooming of informal settlements throughout the country.

Not surprisingly, government spending priorities have gradually reflected this increasing demand since 1994. Housing expenditure, for example, has doubled from R4,2billion in 2003 to R9,5billion for the 2008-09 financial year.

Gauteng in particular faces a huge demand for housing. The province is still saddled with the massive problem of the influx to its cities, especially Johannesburg, of people desperate for employment.

So the social development plan unveiled on Monday by Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa is most welcome because it shows that the provincial government is serious about tackling the housing problem.

The province's plan to get rid of all squatter camps by 2014 is its most ambitious project to date, given the magnitude of the housing backlog and the scale of the informal settlements in the province.

But if the plan is to succeed it is important that critical elements such as poverty alleviation and job creation are part of the thrust - as Shilowa realises.

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