The statistics just released from the national Census taken last year have of course raised some serious concerns about the inequalities still evident in South Africa almost 20 years after the transition to democracy.
They have, however, also highlighted the fact that the country is definitely going forward rather than backward on many fronts, including the core issue of housing, says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group.
“The Census revealed, for example, that there are some 14,5m households in SA now, and that about 1,3m of these families still live in “informal housing” (or shacks) in squatter camps and backyards. However, the situation has improved somewhat since the previous census in 2001, when there were about 1,9m households living in similar circumstances.”
The Census also shows that 77,6% of households now live in formal dwellings, compared to 63,8% of the 11,6m households counted in 2001. “In real terms, that means the number of families living in formal housing has taken a big jump in the past 10 years from 7,4m to almost 11,3m.”
SA’s complement of “formal’ housing, according to the Census, includes about 9,5m brick or concrete-block dwellings on separate stands or farms, as well as some 720 000 flats in apartment blocks. Meanwhile, another 7,9% of households – most of them in KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern Cape - live in proper homes made of “traditional materials”.
The statistics also show, note Everitt, that 6m of the country’s homes are fully paid for; 1,7m are bonded and still being paid off; 3,6m are rented and 2,7m are occupied rent free. Of the homes which have been paid off, 4,9m belong to black owners, just over 500 000 to whites, about 416 000 to coloureds and 119 000 to Asians. Other highlightsinclude the fact that more than 13m of the homes in SA have access to piped water and proper sanitation; 11,1m have a gas or electric stove to cook on; 10,7m have a TV and 9,9m have a fridge. In addition, more than 4m families in SA now own a car.
“There is obviously still a lot of work to be done, but we are very encouraged by the progress made so far in getting all South Africans decently housed, as this is the essential starting point for so much other growth and development.”