TEASA to Submit Comments on Department of Human Settlements’ Whitepaper

Biblical Israel was purposed to be a model nation in the Old Testament. In the book Isaiah 32:18, the prophet says that “they will live in peaceful habitation, and sure dwellings ….’. In the New Testament, the church has taken the place of Israel. It models, advocate for, and propagates Kingdom values – not just for its members, but for everyone in society.

The church has an important role to play in advocating for peaceful and secure habitats, particularly for the poor, widows, orphans and other vulnerable groups in society. Our government has released the Whitepaper on Human Settlements for public comments.

A common of feature of Evangelical Public witness around the world is that it limits is moral lens to the personal sphere. Whilst this is a legitimate advocacy agenda, we are also biblically obliged to focus on broader moral concerns of the common good.

In a society like ours where there are massive economic inequalities, it is imperative for churches and Christians to prioritize and advocate for public policies that promote social justice. Housing is a key social need in our society. Government is obliged by our constitution and bill of rights to do all that is reasonable possible to either provide or enable access to housing particularly for vulnerable and low-income members of our society.

On Tuesday 27 February, we hosted a webinar to reflect on the Department of Human Settlements’ (DHS) latest Whitepaper on Human Settlements. Our intention in hosting this webinar is to ask TEASA members to join us in assisting to formulate our submission on the Whitepaper.

Please watch a recording of the webinar by using this link: https://us06web.zoom.us/rec/share/LA6LQY5_FMi7VaQSurBF1pSwYWRgcZ0G5iXp8GDfZ4EU-uxpXkly_p125LUoO5do.l84uIGb0xg3PsxFD?startTime=1709051256000 Please access the video using this passcode: %gg51+!j

The webinar raised a number of issues.

First, there is a lack of alignment across government on targeted groups. As an example, The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is open to students whose combined parent annual income is below R350,000 whilst the current threshold to access RDP houses is R220,000

Second, whilst DHS is exploring to consider providing houses for poor migrants, DHA is exploring to exit some international treaties and protocols, then return to sign with exemptions

Third, how does the provision of houses contribute towards rebuilding and strengthening families? Families are a foundational and important building unit of every society. The white paper whilst prioritizing other vulnerable groups like women and child headed households, it should not be done at the expense of supporting poor and low-income families

Fourth, there is a category of ‘missing middle’ families who are working and earning an income but not enough to afford bonded houses.

Fifth, the backlog of those waiting to receive housing currently stands at three million and it is a moving target. What is government doing about it?

The initial Whitepaper had envisaged an important role for the finance sector. Government seems to have over the years resigned itself to a minimum role for the finance sector.

Lastly how do we not disrupt existing economies in Informal settlements when we seek to formalize them? Instead, government must contribute to their integration into the formal economy.

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