Inclusive, Enabling Communities

Inclusive, Enabling Communities
Learning Brief

Project Preparation Trust of KZN

Towards an inclusive special needs housing programme: PPT's housing advocacy project

Category: Inclusive, Enabling Communities | Caring and protection of particularly vulnerable groups | 2 March, 2013 - 07:27


Vulnerable South Africans with special care needs, such as orphans, abused women and children, the severely disabled and the elderly have limited access to state-assisted housing through the non-profit organisations (NPOs) who provide the relevant shelter and care at grassroots-level. This is because special needs housing is not enshrined in the National Housing Code and there is no national-level policy framework to address this issue. Three provinces (KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, and the Eastern Cape) have active special needs group housing (SNGH) programmes making use of the institutional subsidy mechanism or the transitional variation of it.  The housing subsidies are made available only to suitable NPOs which have support of the relevant Provincial oversight Department (Social Development or Health) The Western Cape has developed a comprehensive policy on SNGH but this has yet to be put into effect due to an absence of a clear indication from the National Department of Human Settlements over the eligibility of the institutional subsidy mechanism for such purposes.

It is within this context that Project Preparation Trust (PPT) works to create an enabling policy environment for people with special care needs to access adequate shelter and care through. PPT is a public benefit organisation that supports community based organisations and special needs groups by mobilising capital for them by means of systematic project preparation (including feasibilities) and engaging in evidence-based lobbying for special needs housing policy. PPT is currently undertaking a pilot-learning advocacy project that focuses on stage 2 and 3 housing for abused women, and children and older persons.

National Submission by Civil Society Organisations

A joint Civil Society submission supported by 42 organisations was submitted to the National Department of Human Settlements in January 2013 calling on the Department to issue an enabling directive for SNGH which amongst other things would confirm that SNGH can be undertaken as a legitimate variation of institutional subsidy mechanism, that budget for purposes of SNGH be set aside, and that provinces without SNGH policies and programmes be required to develop and initiate them.

Key lessons learnt from engaging in housing advocacy

  1. Government – especially the National Department of Human Settlements (NDHS) – has been slow to respond to the issue of special needs individual housing. EThekwini and PPT made submissions on SNGH to the NDHS in 2005, the National Special Needs Housing Forum made a submission in 2008 and a joint civil society submission was made in 2013. The NDHS is well aware of longstanding provincial SNGH programmes in provinces such as those in KZN.  To date there has been no positive or supportive response from the Department.
  2. There is still no clarity or clear position from the NDHS in respect of SNGH and indeed it is poorly understood at the National level. Certain officials within the NDHS have even indicated that institutional subsidies may not be utilised for purposes of SNGH (despite longstanding provincial programmes which do so). The draft National Special Needs Housing Policy Framework that was reported by the NDHS in 2010 to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee has emerged as being a research document focussing on a narrow range of issues relating to effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic (e.g. death of guardians receiving subsidised housing). It is not a SNGH Policy Framework.
  3. This lack of clarity from the NDHS undermines provincial SNGH programmes and creates uncertainty as to how to proceed with SNGH. For example, The Western Cape DHS have put their SNGH policy and programme on hold as a result of this lack of clarity and Gauteng’s programme is too narrowly focussed.
  4. The lack of progress on special needs housing programmes is due largely to inter-departmental confusion over policy responsibilities and a lack of coordinated collaboration between Department heads – particularly between the NDHS and the Department of Social Development.
  5. Most Provincial Departments of Human Settlement have limited experience working with NPOs as housing partners (except for KZN and the Eastern Cape).
  6. There is currently insufficient political will to expedite SNGH and no suitable political champion for it.

Lessons about engaging with broader systems for policy development

There is no unified definition or understanding of special needs housing within the civil society and government sectors. Many NPOs do not know what housing instruments are available for people with special needs to live independently. As a result, the PPT Project has developed a new and inclusive definition of special needs housing. This definition makes a clear distinction between individual and group forms of special needs housing, and includes all categories of people with special needs (e.g. older persons, victims of domestic abuse, persons with disabilities, orphans and vulnerable children, the homeless, etc.). This inclusive definition was included in the national submission and new special needs housing overview document.

Lessons about government and Civil Society collaboration

The partnership between the National Department of Human Settlements and the non-profit organisation (NPO) sector needs to be enhanced. Fortunately, there is strong interest and support from CSO’s and NPOs, and good preconditions for constructive collaboration in respect of promoting SNGH at national and provincial levels.

In order to collaborate with the Provincial Departments of Human Settlements or municipalities on SNGH, NPOs and advocacy groups must have the greater support, capacity and knowledge. Specifically:

  • NPOs will have to familiarise themselves with state housing programmes in general and with SNGH in particular (although it is not yet a functional programme in all provinces). A copy of the simplified Guide to the Housing Code can be found on the DHS website and a guideline document on SNGH can be found on PPT’s website
  • NPOs will need to understand how to prepare applications for SNGH housing subsidies. PPT and the DGMT have already discussed conducting workshops to share this knowledge with other NPOs.
  • NPOs need to find ways to improve their mutual collaboration, co-operation and communication around key areas of common interest and specific developmental agendas and issues (at both project and policy levels).

A multi-stakeholder national workshop it being actively promoted involving key departments and NPOs. It will ensure that agreement is reached concerning the basic principles of special needs housing; special needs housing is put on the national agenda; and a foundation is laid for departmental cooperation.

Main implications of the learning for PPT and others

  • An intensive, joint effort is required to intensify pressure for an enabling directive for SNGH from the National Department of Human Settlements (i.e. confirming that SNGH can be undertaken as a variation of the institutional subsidy mechanism as is already occurring in several provinces).
  • Vigorous follow up with the Housing Portfolio Committee is required in order to convey to them the status and limitations of what is purported to be a national special needs housing policy framework, and to seek their continued support in pushing hard for an enabling national directive.
  • Garnering support from the Department of Social Development, the Department of Health, and the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disability is vital for strengthening interdepartmental cooperation. 


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In Short

In this one-page-pitch the Project Preparation Trust shares lessons on how to engage with national and provincial government in changing housing policy for people with special care needs. These lessons reveal the importance of knowing who to engage with; the need for common understanding about concepts; and the challenges faced when lobbying and creating awareness in government about housing issues.

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