Low cost housing delivery program : an interpretive systems approach.
Chiro, Tendayi Edward.
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As enshrined in the post-apartheid South African constitution, access to basic services like potable water, sanitation and formal housing has become a basic right for all South Africans. The delivery of low-cost housing through the national and provincial Departments of Human Settlement is one of the major focuses of the post-apartheid South African Government. South Africa today (2010) still has massive shortages of low-cost housing for the poor, despite funding being made available to address this need. Millions of poor families live in shacks in informal settlements and in overcrowded townships where small (250 to 300 square metre) erven with one bedroom dwellings and rudimentary extensions and backyard shacks erected on them often house more than one family while they await access to housing subsidies. The Eastern Cape Province is one of the poorest provinces in South Africa, with a significantly poor rural community and dense urban settlements which have sprouted all over as a result of urban migration and population growth. According to the Provincial Human Settlement Department, the Eastern Cape has a backlog of approximately 370,000 low-cost houses. Several low cost housing projects have been initiated in the province. The projects are implemented using different partnership strategies and they produce different outcomes, which are in no way near the desired outcomes of meeting the demand of supplying quality houses in the shortest possible time (E Cape Government Department of Human Settlement). In terms of the project management norms, standards and processes of the building industry, it takes two builders, one plumber and five labourers five days to build a fifty square metre low-cost housing unit. Yet some projects, as small as 200 housing units, have taken more than 10 years to complete for one reason or the other. Often when the houses are perceived to be complete it becomes evident that their quality is of an unacceptable standard, and some unmet desired objectives. Some project sites in rural towns of the former Transkei have been abandoned due to failures in implementation. Furthermore, some project sites which start off as green fields have been invaded by poor communities who build rudimentary shack dwellings on the sites in a sign of desperation, impatience and frustration at the pace of delivery (among other reasons) with a huge unfavourable financial impact on the implementation of the planned projects. The problems impacting on low-cost housing delivery are a combination of hard systems (processes, procedures, costing, programming and so on) and soft systems (the human element). The problems and risks described as being associated with housing projects are many and varied, depending who is talking, and in some instances it is difficult to describe the problems in words (unstructured and complex problems). This study concentrates on the human element associated with the implementation processes by critically examining the roles of the multitude of stakeholders who are identified as partners in the projects. Such partnerships are a huge contributing factor to the success or failure of a programme. This study looks at minimising project implementation risks through the establishment of effective cross-sector partnership frameworks. The positive and negative impacts of partners in low-cost housing project management and implementation are critically examined using Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) with a view to improving service delivery. Keywords Systems Thinking, Complexity, Soft Systems, Cross-sector Partnerships, Project Management, Low-cost Housing Projects