A land solution - Sunday Tribune

18 November 2018 - The protests in Mariannridge highlight two factors: that more effective land reform is urgent in South Africa's cities; and the damaging consequences of the ANC government's continued use of race as a benchmark for services, jobs and developing infrastructure.

Michael Morris

The protests in Mariannridge highlight two factors: that more effective land reform is urgent in South Africa's cities; and the damaging consequences of the ANC government's continued use of race as a benchmark for services, jobs and developing infrastructure.

This leads to resentment and mistrust, and perpetuates apartheid era divisions.

Housing and development can be addressed without factoring in race, so instead of rewarding or penalising people based on their appearance, and wasting bureaucratic resources on managing a race based system, all efforts can go towards addressing needs and disadvantages where they actually exist.

The state owns masses of land in our cities, which should be released for housing. We suggest it can best be done through an empowerment model we have created, called Economic Empowerment for the Disadvantaged.

State funded housing vouchers redeemable solely for housing would go directly to all South Africans between the ages of 25 and 35, who fall below an earnings ceiling of, say, R15000 a month. There are some 10 million South Africans in this age group, many below this earnings ceiling, who would qualify. The voucher would be worth R800 a month, or R9 600 a year, and each recipient would continue receiving the voucher for 10 years or R100 000.

A couple pooling vouchers would receive nearly R200000 over a decade. This could be topped up by their own earnings. The cost to the fiscus for 10 million beneficiaries would be R96 billion a year and would work out at less than the current housing budget.

The government's role would mainly be limited to identifying and releasing state and municipal land for housing. People would choose how to use their vouchers for whatever housing option suited them.

The main benefits would be a normal, non racial housing market, with ordinary people having choices in renting, buying, renovating or building their own homes, and getting title to an asset. Individual initiative and self reliance would expand. The enormous pent up demand for housing would diminish.

The building industry, especially small enterprises, would be stimulated, and the rental industry would expand, with thousands of ordinary people benefiting. People could use their vouchers to build backyard flats, for instance, and earn money for themselves or the education of their children.This would massively reduce frustration and overcrowding.

The government can commit to meaningful housing reform by releasing unused or under used state land for people to live on.

Doing this, and using a new funding model that empowers people rather than the damaging expropriation without compensation plan should be the focus of our land reform efforts.

Michael Morris is head of media at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR)

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