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City unveils technology for housing backlog
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The hi-tech system the City of Johannesburg has embraced to compile a reliable and accurate housing waiting list in its efforts to address the housing backlog and assist it in its housing development planning is paying dividends.

The system – which uses GPS-enabled Trimble hand scanners that can pick up geographical coordinates, take pictures and transmit all the necessary information to a database at the touch of a button – will assist the City in updating and whittling down the housing waiting list and addressing corruption.

The system was piloted in 45 wards in Region D – which constitutes many parts of Soweto – over a five-month period. It involved 315 field workers who covered no fewer than 210 796 houses.

The pilot project, which took place between February and June last year, found that there were still about 50 000 people on the housing waiting list in Region D, 10 000 of whom applied for houses in the 96/97 financial year.

Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau will launch a citywide rollout of the programme at Sankopano Hall in Alexandra on Wednesday January 21.
Other launches will be held in Region F on January 27 and Region A on February 3.

The rollout will include the City’s regions B, C and G. “Just as much as the City wants to clear the waiting list, it also needs to weed out criminals and make sure the real beneficiaries are targeted. For many years desperate people on the housing waiting list have been falling prey to con artists who promised them instant houses and opportunities to jump the queue. This citywide project will help eliminate fraudulent activities from all quarters, be it from City officials or members of the public,” says Councillor Dan Bovu, Member of the Mayoral Committee for Housing.

MMC Bovu says during the pilot project the techno devices were used by fieldworkers, seven per ward, in a door to door pilot campaign to tabulate, update and upload data on people on the waiting list.

Region D Housing Director Thulani Nkosi says: “The City now has a bird eye’s view of the extent of the housing situation on the ground as the information is plotted on a map with different colour codes.

“The City decided to resort to using advanced technology so we can have a real-time view of the situation, do away with corruption and rely on a fool-proof system to help address the plight of residents who have been waiting for houses for close to 18 years.”

He says now that the project has been successfully piloted in Region D, “lessons have been learned, the system has been tweaked and bottlenecks have been ironed out. The system can now be rolled out to the other regions of the city”.

The City has already begun allocating homes to the oldest residents on the waiting list in various housing developments such as Lufhereng and Fleurhof.

However, it has warned that spaces on the waiting list are not transferable. Dependants of applicants who have died will not benefit.

“If your mother or father was on the housing waiting list and has passed on, their place won’t be transferred to you. But if your parents were recipients of a state housing subsidy, that can be transferred to a beneficiary as that subsidy can be turned into an asset. But if during the citywide campaign our fieldworkers discover child-headed households, then the City will intervene,” Nkosi says.

The City hopes by the end of November to have a clearer picture of the housing backlog, which it plans to whittle down through existing and planned housing developments that encourage mixed use and integration. “Once we have sorted out the waiting list issue, we would have solved a major piece in the puzzle and all our efforts will be prioritised towards eliminating the problem,” Nkosi says.