An exploration into the lower middle income housing market.
The study explores the factors hampering the growth of a sustainable lower middle income (LMI) housing market. The LMI group includes members of the working class who earn between R3,500 and R7,000 per month. The motivation for the research followed an observation made in 2003, that the policies of both the Department of Housing and the traditional banking system excluded this income category from accessing housing assistance. However, during the course of the study, the state started extending subsidy assistance to this income group, through the Breaking New Ground (BNG) policy. The study employed oral and written data collection methods. The housing market participants was divided into three broad categories, namely, demand side participants, supply side participants and the housing market facilitators. Interviews were conducted with both supply side participants and facilitators. On the demand side a questionnaire survey was conducted to establish the experiences of households in respect of the home acquisition process. The research findings revealed that LMI households require a housing typology which is described as a two bedroom detached starter house, within close proximity to a public transport system, and other community facilities for ease of accessibility. The data showed that the LMI households required financial education before getting involved in the home acquisition transaction. In addition, it emerged that professional services offered by the estate agents were not being fully utilized by the LMI households simply because the households were not aware of the responsibility of the agents in the home acquisition transaction process. It is maintained that the LMI housing market is inundated with multi-faceted hurdles from both intrinsic and extrinsic sources. The intrinsic sources include household character, past experiences amongst others, while the extrinsic sources comprise housing stock availability, loan approval criteria, etc. These hurdles require both long and short term interventions addressing the convoluted home acquisition process which involves various facilitators and a costly immovable product. In conclusion, it is recommended that demand side home ownership education is necessary, whereby LMI households are prepared for the home acquisition process. On the supply side long and short term interventions are recommended towards creating enabling environments for the supply of starter houses located close to neighbourhood facilities particularly a reliable transport network.