South African home builders have argued for stronger regulation against the proliferation of foreign nationals within the construction industry, saying that they take employment opportunities away from local skilled and registered builders. These were the views of small and medium business owners in Kuruman during the public hearings hosted by the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements on the Housing Consumer Protection Bill.
.This argument was based on the concern that many home builders in rural areas as well as big construction companies preferred to use illegal and unregistered foreign nationals within the construction industry as a way of reducing costs. The unintended consequence of this practice was non-compliance with building standards, which resulted in shoddy work and inability to enrol houses.
“I am a registered builder with the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) and unfortunately we don’t get job opportunities despite our registration and the requirement to annually renew the registration. How will I be able to renew this registration if I am struggling to work?” said Mr Michael McKay, a builder from Upington. As a result of this concern, some of the contractors suggested that they will withhold their support for the bill until those strong regulations are put in place.
However, female construction company owners were hopeful that the bill will unlock business opportunities for them and allow them to compete on an equal footing with similar male-run construction companies. “I see this bill as a great hope for me and other female business owners. The potential provided by the proposed training initiatives within the bill could be a game changer in the efforts to transform the industry, said Ms Annelie Swartz.
The cost and red tape at the NHBRC were singled out as risk factors in the effective implementation of the bill. Participants called for the capacitation and reskilling of employees and inspectors at the NHBRC to ensure that they implement the legal mandate of the entity.
Also, the land around Kuruman was identified by participants as unstable because it is dolomitic, meaning there are stringent requirements before building a house can occur. This was identified as an impediment, especially for the poor in the context that geotechnical and engineering studies are generally expensive. Poor people therefore resort to building without these reports. Participants called for the bill to force municipalities to provide geotechnical services to avoid this problem.
People attending the public hearing also mentioned that the NHBRC is difficult to access in rural areas and this might undermine the effective implementation of the bill. They also asked the NHBRC to increase the frequency of its information sharing sessions in rural areas to empower rural people with knowledge about building standards and how to access benefits, such as warranty funds.
After concluding hearings in the Northern Cape, the committee will now move to the North West Province, with Western Cape set to be the last on the list for public hearings.
20 September 2021