The Housing Consumer Protection Bill has the potential to make a positive impact on the home building industry, but for many who already live in substandard RDP houses, it is a bitter pill to swallow. This was the view of participants in public hearings on the Bill hosted by the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements in Kimberley in the Northern Cape.

While they welcomed the Bill’s good intentions and the promise of improvements in the building industry the Bill contains, RDP home owners’ daily reality remains a source of pain and anguish for many. “We have received houses that are not built on solid foundation, but were built on slopes. As a result, our houses are moving, cracks in the wall are growing bigger by the day and the roof is leaking. When in my house, you can see another person who is outside through the wall. As we approach the rainy season, we are already concerned at how we are going to cope. We are forever fearful that these houses pose a risk to our lives,” said Ms Lovedelia Mshudulu, a resident in Kimberley.

Despite the assurance from the Department of Human Settlements that a programme is in place to fix the defects, funded from an amount of up to 10 per cent of the budgetary allocation of the provincial Human Settlements Development Grant, many people felt this was wasteful. “It does not make sense to build a house, then a few years down the line you are forced to rectify the defects at an additional cost. We hope that this Bill will ensure the adherence to building standards,” Ms Mshudulu emphasised.

Participants in the public hearings also felt that even though this is a progressive piece of legislation, it risks being poorly implemented, like so many other laws in South Africa. This undermines the Bill’s good intentions and positive spinoffs. Compounding the risk is the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC), which is dysfunctional and also inaccessible to many, community members said. They also called for NHBRC officials to receive skills training to ensure effective implementation of legislation.

Monitoring and evaluation mechanism are also urgently needed to ensure that the Bill is adequately implemented. In addition, members of the public need to be educated on the NHBRC’s role and the benefits of the legislation it implements to empower consumers with the information they need.

Following the conclusion of hearings in Northern Cape this weekend, the committee will now head to North West and thereafter the Western Cape, which is the final province to host hearings on the Bill. After the conclusion of the public participation process, the committee will consolidate the inputs and consider how to integrate them into the Bill. The committee will then submit the Bill to the National Assembly for consideration and approval.

Malatswa Molepo  
19 September 2022