On 18 October 2019, the City of Johannesburg invited interested parties to comment on three draft policies that aim to address the growing need for housing in and around Johannesburg, particularly in circumstances that may lead to homelessness. The policies are the housing allocation policy, serviced sites policy, and the temporary emergency accommodation policy. According to the City, the three policies seek to:

Philippi Cape Town7“to guide the department and provide clear processes in how the department proposes to allocate beneficiaries to RDP houses, how it proposes to implement the new directive of giving people serviced sites to build their own homes, and how to better deal with the very challenging aspect of providing temporary emergency accommodation to those in need.”

In November 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) submitted its comments on the City of Johannesburg’s Draft Policy on Temporary Emergency Accommodation in accordance with the invitation to submit written comments. SERI welcomes the City’s efforts to proactively plan for future housing needs. SERI’s comments on the draft policy draw attention to the following aspects:

  • Addressing disasters and evictions in the same section although they are substantially different emergency situations produced by different circumstances, namely natural and unforeseen events, on the one hand, and a structural imbalance in the housing market, on the other. Given the different nature of the two, the City is better placed to anticipate where and how many lawful evictions are likely to take place over a planning cycle and thereby better able to respond in light of such predictions. Natural disasters may be planned for but to a lesser extent given that they are less predictable.
  • The limiting nature of the policy’s application led process and the restrictive nature of the litigious process it initiates. SERI submits that activating the City’s response should not be limited to an application because the City should prevent homelessness following an eviction through proactive planning.
  • Lack of clarity around the funding arrangements and the qualifying criteria for beneficiaries.
  • The absence of principles that have been developed through case law such as “adequate” alternative accommodation; accountability of municipal office bearers to enforce court orders, meaningful engagement, and the procedural requirements for an eviction, among others.
  • Adequacy and quality of the temporary emergency accommodation provided.

SERI’s comments aligned closely with comments submitted by the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environmental Studies (CUBES) and the Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning (SA&CP) at the University of the Witwatersrand which submitted comments on all three of the City’s draft policies. CUBES and SA&CP’s comments on the Temporary Emergency Accommodation policy echo the need for a distinction to be made between natural disasters and evictions, and the need for the process around meaningful engagement to be reviewed.

  • Read SERI’s full submission here.