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Title deed backlog still plagues SA

Human settlements minister Nomaindia Mfeketo has the big task of clearing the title deed backlog at a time when her department faces massive budget cuts.
The Department of Human Settlements might find it difficult to meet its title deed target given that the department’s budget has been cut by R10bn for the next three years. Picture: Shutterstock

One of the top priorities for Nomaindia Mfeketo since her appointment in February as Minister of Human Settlements under President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new cabinet is the herculean task of clearing SA’s title deeds backlog.

Many before Mfeketo, including her predecessor Lindiwe Sisulu, have taken on the project of restoring title deeds to people who already live in government-supplied, low-cost houses. However, the title deed conundrum has proven difficult to solve for many years.

The delivery of low-cost houses has been the government’s success story since 1994, with nearly four million houses built for the poor. Yet an estimated one million people do not have registered title deeds for the homes they already live in.

In fact, the exact number of individuals without title deeds is not known – even the Department of Human Settlements doesn’t have ways to determine the number. “I don’t have a database or dashboard where I can know for sure that a person who is supposed to be in a house is the person who was given a house,” said Mfeketo in an interview with Moneyweb.

The department is struggling to locate people who had to receive title deeds, including those who received houses under the Reconstruction and Development Programme (known as RDP) – a housing policy introduced by the ANC in 1994 and now referred to as Breaking New Ground.

“I don’t understand how we can say we have a huge backlog in handing over title deeds when we don’t have a database. My understanding is that you are supposed to have a thorough process of identifying a beneficiary when you start a housing development in a particular area and not after delivering a housing development.”

Under Sisulu, the department had set a grandiose three-year target of fast-tracking the release of more than 800 000 title deeds by 2019.

Mfeketo might find it difficult to meet this target given that her department’s budget has been cut by R10 billion for the next three years as part of government’s initiative to free up R57 billion for Jacob Zuma’s costly legacy of fee-free higher education.

Minister Nomaindia Mfeketo (right). Picture: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

She added that the release of title deeds won’t be affected as the budget cut will be closed by additional financing from the private sector and development finance institutions. “We must go back to the basics by creating a database. This will ensure that the people we are giving those free houses to are people who are real beneficiaries. When they are in the database, then we can begin to prepare their title deeds.”

Earlier this month, Mfeketo handed over 2 000 title deeds to housing beneficiaries in Delft, Cape Town, some of whom include senior citizens and people living with disabilities.

The release of title deeds is widely considered as a way for poor people to build on wealth. A beneficiary of a government house with a full title deed is able to use the house as collateral to get a bank loan or add value to the property’s price by refurbishing it. 

More complexities

Industry players say the title deeds challenge is more complex than the department has envisaged.

Research by the Urban LandMark found that the stalled process of township establishment and proclamation, which delays the registration of new housing areas or neighbourhoods, is the biggest reason behind the title deed backlog. 

The problem also seems to be exacerbated by the revisions to the payment process for developers of government-subsidised houses. Up until 2003, the registration of title deeds in the name of beneficiaries was first required before the final two payments could be made to developers. Changes followed, allowing developers to be paid by the government before the registration of title deeds in the name of beneficiaries.  

The rationale for the change was that the transfer processes of title deeds were complex and took too long to implement, which delayed the developers’ access to payments from the government. 

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proof again of the total ANC incompetence of the last 24 years, this government can not even make a success on a project giving away freebies.

“We must go back to the basics by creating a database” ? Only NOW, don’t tell me all this is stored at some government storeroom …eish, those data captures definitely going to earn their 7%….800 000 title deeds by 2019…never going to happen.

I share the minister’s disbelief yet at the same time it makes perfect sense that no database exists — if there was one, then house handovers would be compelled to be aboveboard and irregularities become traceable.

In the current system the lack of a paper trail is how friends and family of the politicos ended up scooping up all these properties for their own gain whilst the people who should have benefitted stay permanently on the lists of future recipients.

If the process had functioned as it ought to havr then expropriation without compensation, land invasions, et al would have had a much tougher time gaining public traction.

Minister is talking nonsense. Every property (land) transfer has to be registered at the relevant Deeds Office after a fairly extensive conveyancing process. The owner of any property so registered and details of stand can be accessed and checked online through various programmes. It is done every day.

wow, you think the first world process we go through applies here?

Can you not read, the developments were built, people moved in, title deeds were never registered, hence the backlog… hello…

Perhaps it’s time to start using the right technologies to speed this up. We’re lagging behind Peru, Ghana etc.

See https://view.joomag.com/real-estate-investor-magazine-south-africa-real-estate-investor-magazine-may-2017/0468721001493817499/p28?short

Thanks for the link. See my comment today – Was unaware that blockchain was being used in this area of national economies elsewhere and for me the logic is so obvious.

Nice to see that my 70 year old brain hasn’t atrophied yet….

Using state-sponsored low-cost homes for the poor as collateral is a very risky idea. It is simply not politically feasible for banks to repossess any number of these homes and put people on the streets. Or is it patronizing to think people in that bracket shouldn’t be left to manage their own affairs?

Once registered as titled deed holders and registered on a local database – see my comment above, they would become ratepayers like anyone else and pay (even if it is R0.50c) a square metre on an electronic accounting system – using blockchain – for their specific township which would bring home to them that they HAVE to pay in some small way for infrastructure services. Roads, sewage, water, electricity.

And if they don’t pay they would be noted on the the already very sophisticated credit systems servicing the retail trade. So no pay – no account at Mr Price…..

A lot of these houses have changed hands several times. The original owners never understood what a title deed is. They have sold/rented/given this house to others, so not much hope of even getting the original title deeds to the owner. He/she has moved on. Easiest way, but impossible for the ANC would be to go house to house and the person living there gets a letter stating that this is their house. If the original owner comes back it is tough on him.

And all the people renting their house out? Sorry mate, tough luck…

Lets get real for a second.

“Mfeketo might find it difficult to meet this target given that her department’s budget has been cut by R10 billion for the next three years as part of government’s initiative to free up R57 billion for Jacob Zuma’s costly legacy of fee-free higher education.”

Thank you! I’ve been wondering where the money will come from. Which will extrapolate by the same amount every year until the taxpayer will be paying close to R200 billion at the end of the third year. Or is the R57 billion a once off?

“We must go back to the basics by creating a database. This will ensure that the people we are giving those free houses to are people who are real beneficiaries. When they are in the database, then we can begin to prepare their title deeds.” Well who woulda thought???

And “Research by the Urban LandMark found that the stalled process of township establishment and proclamation, which delays the registration of new housing areas or neighbourhoods, is the biggest reason behind the title deed backlog.”

Isn’t this an ideal opportunity for the computer science students who are getting that free education to develop an electronic data base program which could be used as a default online register which could be accessed online with a smartphone app?

How hard is that to do with Google Maps, GPS and everyone having a smart phone? And if anyone is nervous about the security of the database, well surely this is why God gave us the Blockchain?

Start by getting people in informal settlements like Vrygrond in Cape Town (who have shut down the area with rioting over land) registered in small batches and see how the mood in the townships will change once they can actually go online to Google Maps and the new website/database and see their shack with a boundary of a metre registered to them with their South African ID number.

We should by now have the technical resources to do this.

Good thinking – it can be done with a bit of careful thought, honest effort and dedication; all pretty much lacking in the runaway train we call “government” in SA.

So the backlog has a few causes I reckon. One is simple lack of application; like land reform. The other is simple corruption; like land reform. The last is that giving people title will limit the future power the ANC has over them; very like in the tribal areas; in fact, like land reform.

Who cares about the backlog. All properties worthless due to EWC….. aka theft.

Btw: Saica how goes it with the new accounting standards on EWC?

End of comments.

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