Census & Sensibility

The 2011 Census was a big deal. A census is not just about counting people in a town or province but a valuable means to understand the way people live and determine whether the quality of their lives has improved since the last count. This affords government an opportunity to identify the gaps and begin seeking solutions. Knowledge Factory considered the numbers to gain insights into the housing and employment sector.

It is encouraging to note that the number of shack dwellers in South Africa has dropped to 13, 6% of the population - equivalent to approximately 7, 1 million persons - since the previous census in 2001. Almost 78% of South Africa’s population now has formal dwellings, while 8% live in traditional homes in rural areas. This is world-class performance for a developing nation.

Better yet 2, 5million more persons now have access to piped water, and additional 8 million have access to flush toilets and 12,6 million more have access to electricity.

The number of formal home dwellers increased by 10% - largely due to government’s efforts with RDP housing. The National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) reports that 3,047,600 RDP houses were built between 1994 and 2010 providing housing for an estimated 10 million people. That is an astounding accomplishment. Unfortunately it’s not all good news. Included in this number are thousands of sub-standard houses with shoddy workmanship that slipped through the cracks. The bill for remedial costs for houses already built is estimated at a staggering R50 billion - equivalent to about 7% of the government’s entire infrastructure budget. Even the NHBRC has been put under the spotlight. Late in 2012 the Minister of Human Settlements saw the need to appoint a new board for the organisation.

Rent or Buy – that question facing thousands of people daily looking for a place to live. There are 1.6 million formally rented properties in South Africa. For the most part, both tenants and landlords are protected by the law, including the Rental Housing Act, the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act, the Consumer Protection Act, and the Companies' Act of 2011. Common difficulties arise most often from the incorrect interpretation, or incorrect application of the law. This may result because tenants have a limited understanding of their rights. They may not comprehend what constitutes breach of contract or just how far-reaching consequences of such a breach may be. On the other hand incompetent or unscrupulous behaviour on the part of landlords or slumlords may cause inconvenience, financial loss or pain and suffering for tenants.

Fortunately recourse is available. The Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT) provides information regarding agreements, legal rights, deposits and refunds, rental property inspections, forced removals, maintenance, damages, claims, as well as the dispute resolution and arbitration process.

The start of any dispute resolution is the written rental contract – if there is one. Despite what many believe, 70% of rentals are managed by the landlords themselves, not by a letting agency. Unfortunately many of these agreements are still verbal. This means that these transactions are not protected by the Consumer Protection Act, the Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999 nor do parties have access to the Rental Housing Tribunal when things go pear-shaped.

Economic empowerment - a long and winding road in developing countries like ours - along with legal and financial education aims to address these inequalities. Of the 33, 2million working age population (16-65 years old) only 13, 18 million are currently employed or are economically active - a labour force absorption rate of a just 39, 7%. The rate of absorption is however not equal and varies from 70% for the white population to just 33% for households headed by black Africans. The census counted 5,6million workers as unemployed - an unemployment rate of 29, 8%. Clearly still much work lies ahead for individuals and organisations to ensure that all become economically active and contributors to SA’s young but exciting economy.

Article by: Dieter Deppisch - www.knowledgefactory.co.za

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