A delegation from the Democratic Alliance (DA) last week conducted an urgent oversight inspection of Msunduzi’s Woodlands housing project in response to claims that the still incomplete project has seemingly been abandoned by KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Human Settlements, with the half-built houses set to be torn down.
The inspection, which included DA Deputy Shadow Minister on Human Settlements, Emma Powell, was prompted by a request from DA Constituency Head, Francois Rodgers and DA Ward Councillor Shawn Adkins. This after Cllr Adkins also questioned the motives behind the launch which took place just before a by-election in the area and the subsequent alleged abandonment of the project after the ANC lost the Ward.
The Woodlands development was first launched in early 2018 with the aim of providing 233 low-cost houses on completion, with the project divided into three stages – Woodlands Extension, which was already under construction, while Site 11 and the Happy Valley project were set to follow.
The DA’s visit has certainly revealed a sad state of affairs (view here, here and here) as houses are currently three quarters built with wall frames, door frames and window frames and even roof structures. Yet there are no roof tiles and the insides are empty. There is also no bulk infrastructure so there are no water pipes, no electricity lines and no sewage lines. This while bricks are also being stolen from the site, in plain view of those who were promised these homes and who currently live in a nearby informal settlement on a railway line reserve.
Regrettably, the situation in Woodlands is not an isolated incident and it is increasingly clear that KZN’s Department of Human Settlements is unable to deal with the housing crisis in our province.
What is happening in Woodlands is a slap in the face to those who have been waiting since 1999 for their homes. It is beyond cruel that these residents should have to witness the abandonment of their houses being built while literally living in the shadow of the development. In short, it has become a monument to the many broken promises that the ANC has made to them which, it seems, will never see come true.
The DA is deeply concerned about the futures of those who were promised housing as part of this project. Our concerns are not unfounded when one considers that more than 50% of the housing backlog within the entire Mgungundlovu District – 44 263 out of 79 998 – stems from Msunduzi Municipality, under which Woodlands falls. Meanwhile, the present backlog in Ward 32, where the project is located, is 674.
According to the Msunduzi Informal Settlement Upgrading Strategy of 2014, there are about 70 informal settlements within Msunduzi municipality’s jurisdiction. Most of them are scattered in the municipality’s northern suburbs such as the Edendale area.
Based on the Department of Human Settlements’ Housing Subsidy Quantum data, it costs roughly R168 000 to build a formal low-cost house. More than 20 000 households are living in informal settlements within Msunduzi, of which approximately 13 491 households live in informal dwelling units.
The DA will be seeking answers from MEC Peggy Nkonyeni over the Woodlands housing project. These will include;
· Whether the project has in fact been abandoned and, if so, why
· The total cost of the project to date
· Whether any of these costs will be recouped and, if so, how and;
· What her Department’s plans are with the half-built houses.
Most importantly, we will ask the MEC whether the residents of this settlement will ever receive the houses they were promised. Questions on the matter will also be submitted to the Minister of Human Settlements via our national colleagues.
The DA remains committed to ensuring that those living in the Woodlands settlement area get answers and that they are provided with the housing they were promised so many years ago.