Evolving stakeholder roles and perceptions of sustainability of low cost housing developments in Msunduzi Municipality : the case of Ambleton.
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Many development agencies active in South Africa including the Built Environment Support Group (BESG) and Hifab International Ab have voiced concern about the sustainability of common housing production practices for low income housing developments. Since early 1999 when the country reached the one million mark of housing subsidies granted by government from 1994, the drive for numbers was gradually replaced by a dawning concern for the likely impacts on health and the environment of the kinds of settlements being produced. The purpose of this dissertation is to use a case study approach to review and assess the changing policies, roles and perceptions of key stakeholders of the sustainability of government supplied low cost housing. The review and assessment is against the legislative framework of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), the environmental requirements within the Department of Housing (DOH) policy and principles of sustainability that need to apply in Msunduzi Municipality. In so doing, the intention is to create an integrated picture that covers a socio-economic profile of the inhabitants of the project area, the quality of housing and the environmental conditions prevailing. This aim of the dissertation was achieved by (i) identifying the trends in the roles played in the sustainability of the low cost housing settlements by authorities, house occupants, developers, NGOs and CBOs (ii) identifying the perceptions of the sustainability of the low cost housing projects by the above mentioned stakeholders (iii) understanding the perceptions of communities on the use of the open spaces around their homes and in their communities and (iv) creating an integrated picture of trends in roles and perceptions in the form of a systems diagram. On the basis of the household survey and key informant interviews carried out during the study, the key findings are the following: (1) There is poverty, low levels of formal education and a lack of social cohesion, making it difficult for the home owners to play a positive role in sustaining their settlement. There is need to organize and educate the residents on housing and environmental maintenance issues. This can be done by creating Community Based Organisations (CBOs) in the form of Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in which both the municipality and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) can participate. The SMMEs are already being planned for by the Msunduzi Municipality. (2) The municipality lacks capacity to fully initiate projects as well as to interpret and implement Environmental Management Plans (EMPs). There is, therefore, a need to train and recruit staff with these skills or engage NGOs with that capacity. On the other hand the indigent policy introduced by the municipality to subsidize basic services will, if well administered, help maintain minimum health standards in the settlement. (3) The septic tank toilet type in the study area is not compatible with the community needs and geotechnically cannot function properly. This causes a lot of dissatisfaction among the residents and is a health hazard. The toilet problem is a priority issue which needs to be addressed. (4) There is a break in the chain of communicating between the community and municipality on housing and environmental issues, due mainly to a lack of implementation of the ward committees and a tenuous relationship between the Department of Housing and the municipality. The ward committees should be set up and a positive mutually beneficial relationship between DOH and the municipality should be developed. (5) The community view about the use of their open spaces is that they should be used for agriculture and business including shops. There is therefore a need to provide agricultural extension services and promote small businesses within the community in order to enhance food security and create employment. (6) The community lacks a clinic, a police station and shops. These services are critical for the smooth functioning of the settlement. The question of how such services are delivered remains a challenge as financial resources remain scarce. Finally, environment, participation, futurity and equity being the four principles which make housing policy and practice sustainable will only be integrated into low cost housing settlements if: (i) the EMP is developed and implemented with involvement of the community (environment and participation principles); (ii) in order to make the houses durable, the norms and standards based on the National Building Regulations and Building Standard Act must be followed (futurity principle); and (iii) skills development, education and creation of jobs will enable residents of the low income settlements to have a share of the national wealth (equity and participation principles).
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