How does the National Housing Policy of South Africa promote economic justice?
Lack of adequate housing is a key feature of poverty in South Africa. After the first democratic election in 1994, Government has faced the challenge of reconstruction and development, particularly with regard to improving the living conditions of those most disadvantaged by Apartheid. Inheriting a housing backlog as well as a fragmented and discriminatory approach to housing policy, Government has sought to make adequate housing affordable to especially those with little or no income. This mini-thesis aims to assess the approach of Government to the housing crisis. It does so by evaluating the National Housing Policy in the context of key legislation and policies that have shaped Government's response to the onslaught of poverty. The Constitution, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) and the Growth, Employment and Redistribution Strategy (GEAR) are the specific documents considered in terms of its impact on the nature of government's development priorities and its approach to addressing these priorities. The concept of economic justice is used as a basis on which to assess the Government policies in question. The Government's Subsidy Programme and its efforts to encourage private sector investment in housing are identified as the key strategies employed by Government to solving the housing crisis. The main conclusions are that in the context of unemployment and low incomes, the advantages of the Subsidy Programme are limited because the poor have a limited capacity to improve on the houses provided by the subsidy. Also the government relies too heavily on the private sector to provide housing. It is difficult to maintain consistent private sector involvement because this sector's primary motivation is profit and the low-income sector is considered a high risk investment. This is not an effective strategy in attempting to resolve the housing crisis. Furthermore, the benefits of the Subsidy Programme, while enhancing economic equity by targeting the very poor, are limited because it relies on the availability of supplementary resources for housing. The implications of these factors for economic justice are that the equity cannot be fully achieved while improvement in the poor's economic capacity moves at a much slower pace than their capacity to improve their social conditions, specifically with regard to housing. Much more investment in housing from Government is proposed. Initiatives that could be utilised more are the establishment of more public works programmes and savings-linked credit schemes. The mini-thesis concludes that the national housing policy promotes economic justice only to limited extent, because of the problems identified with the strategies to place more emphasis on mobilising alternative resources, which are difficult to achieve in the current economic context the country finds itself in.