SA Affordable Housing March - April 2019 // Issue: 75 - Page 32

CONTRIBUTORS Creative solutions are necessary When it comes to providing enough sustainable, affordable housing to meet demand, the largest hindrance that dominates in government and financial institutions is the definition of what a home is and who can be financed to receive one? By Iqbal Hirji, founder of RWPA Solutions M odular style homes that are built in factories, transported on flatbed trucks and erected on site in days are increasingly seen as a cheaper solution in answering the global, massive housing backlog. Constructed from predefined quantities in factories, these homes are also more sustainable in that they waste fewer materials and reduce construction efforts and time on site. An additional benefit with modular homes is the demand for housing in, for example, Gauteng can be used to create jobs at factories in more rural areas like Limpopo. Despite this, municipalities in South Africa do not appear to encourage non-traditional building methods and town-planning divisions are much more likely to fail plans for projects that propose alternative building methods or environmentally sustainable designs. In fact, in some cases, South African building law is outright aggressive towards any innovation in the housing industry that moves homes away from old brick and mortar methods. For example, in many suburbs around the country homes built from wood (as they are in the US) are strictly forbidden, a hangover from the old apartheid government that did not want rural style homesteads in the city. With house prices often making them entirely unattain- able for many residents the need for creative, cost-effective solutions for housing is undeniable, but even in the unlikely event that sustainable designs are passed by the municipal- ity, they run into more hurdles when it comes time for potential buyers to apply for financing. Purchasing a modular home is an almost impossible task under the current climate due to a reticence from banks to give financing to buyers. The fear from banks is that these homes depreciate rather than appreciate in value and as such are not attractive for repossession from defaulters. This is out-dated thinking – a home built properly from panels and frames is no different to a home made from 30 MARCH - APRIL 2019 bricks and mortar. Both require maintenance over time of roughly 5% of the value of the property a year to maintain their ‘like new’ status and, if properly looked after, both should appreciate in value simply due to the fact that the price for building new homes will always increase – irre- spective of what they are made of. Regardless of actual maintenance status, the property the home is built on always appreciates. If banks remain unconvinced then an argument can also be made that finance houses are quite capable of develop- ing a new type of finance model on which the homes are calculated similar to financing a vehicle, and the land on which the house sits is financed like a traditional property. This combined solution would allay the fears of the financial institution, while still allowing a whole sector of the population, who are currently forced to live in informal housing, to get a foot onto the property ladder. The need for creative, cost- effective solutions for housing in South Africa is undeniable. The barriers to getting people into Agrément certified, safe, waterproof, wind-proof and fire-resistant homes are all in the heads of those who make policy or provide the financ- ing. Changing this requires strong political leadership from all spheres of government acting collaboratively to coordi- nate policy and resources, alongside innovative thinkers, civil society, NGOs and disruptors in the corporate and financial sectors. Working together we can get more people into safe homes and eradicate the blight of shacks in our country.