INFORMATION | SOUTH AFRICA 

Everything you need to know about government housing

Struggling to understand how to get a government house? We hope this guide helps you.

Photo of RDP house
Photo: Thembela Ntongana
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The government houses people using the following projects:

(1) Government subsidy housing

(2) Community Residential Units

(3) Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme

(4) Emergency Housing Programme

(6) Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme.

(5) Social Housing

To apply for any of these, you have to register with your municipality or provincial Department of Human Settlements. You will need to be over 18, and either a South African citizen with an identity book or card, or a foreign resident with a permanent residency permit. Different housing projects are designed for different incomes and so you may also have to provide proof of your monthly income.

Depending on where you are, you will be listed on a Municipal Housing Demand Database or your province’s Housing Needs Register. When new projects are built you might be allocated housing. Remember to keep your proof of registration. If you move let the department where you applied know so they can find you if your house becomes available.

Note: allocation of government built houses is complex. Each municipality or province has different systems for housing allocation, and so the information here is only a guide of what is available and how to apply. Each municipality has its own system for appeals, but each province’s MEC is allowed to review applications on a case-by-case basis. If your application gets rejected, try contact your MEC of Human Settlements for help.

Government subsidy housing (commonly known as RDP houses)

These are houses that have been built by the government and are given to low income families. Government Subsidy houses are owned, not rented, by beneficiaries.

To qualify for an RDP house you must meet the National Housing Subsidy Scheme criteria. This means you must be:

  • A South African citizen

  • Over 21 and mentally competent to sign a contract

  • Married or living with a partner, or single and have dependants (single military veterans or aged people without dependents also qualify)

  • Earn less than R3,500 per month per household (so if two people in your family earn and these earnings amount to more than R3,500 per month you will not qualify)

  • A first time government subsidy recipient

  • A first time home owner

If you are disabled you are supposed to be given preference and your house is supposed to be adapted to meet your needs.

To apply for a government Subsidy house take the following documents to a provincial office of the DHS, or your municipal offices:

  • Applicant and spouse’s identity documents (green book or ID card)

  • Certified copies of birth certificates of children

  • Proof of income if working, e.g. salary slip

You will be asked to fill in a housing subsidy application form. Depending on your province or municipality, you will then be registered on the National Housing Needs Register or your Municipal Housing Demands Database. This is a “waiting list”. Once the project is finalized and the houses built, you will be given keys and a title deed to your home, but it can take many years.

It is illegal to sell an RDP house before you’ve lived in it for eight years. It is illegal to rent out an RDP house.

To check how far you are on the waiting list for a house call 0800 146 873 or go to your municipality’s website.

Note: There is a common misconception that individual ward councillors are involved with the allocation process. They are not! Ward councillors can tell you where to go and who to speak to so that you can register on the housing database, but a ward councillor is not involved in the allocation of houses and you shouldn’t pay a ward councillor to take up your case.

Community Residential Units and Housing Programme (CRU)

This housing programme is also aimed at households who earn less than R3,500 per month. CRU housing units are for rent and not for sale. This project is aimed at refurbishing inner city buildings and hostels.

The municipality will charge you rent to cover the municipal rates of the house.

To qualify for CRU housing, you must be:

  • Married or living with a partner or a single person with dependents

  • A South African citizen

  • Over the age of eighteen and mentally competent to sign a contract

  • Have a monthly household income of between R800 to R3,500.

  • Registered on the Municipal Housing Demand Database/National Housing Needs Register

If you have previously owned property, you are still allowed to apply for CRU.

To apply for CRU housing, you must visit your local municipal office and take:

  • Your ID

  • Certified copy of your spouse’s ID

  • Certified copies of birth certificates of children

  • Payslips and bank statements.

Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP)

This programme tries to provide running water, sanitation, electricity and roads to informal settlements, but not necessarily houses. If your informal settlement receives UISP funding, you can later apply for housing construction assistance through other programmes.

To qualify for a UISP, you must meet all the National Housing Subsidy Scheme criteria (see Government Subsidy Housing above), but also people who meet the following criteria can apply:

  • Household with income of more than R3,500 per month

  • People without dependents

  • Child-headed households

  • People who used to own property

The following people’s applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis:

  • Undocumented immigrants

  • People who have previously received housing assistance and who previously owned and/or currently own a residential property

You cannot apply for UISP. Municipalities identify informal settlements in their area that need upgrades and then apply to their provincial department’s MEC for funding. After funding has been set aside, your community will be invited to come to planning meetings to determine the needs of your community.

Caution: This can be a difficult process. A lot of municipalities prefer to relocate entire informal settlements instead of upgrading it because getting engineering services into overcrowded informal settlements can be difficult.

Put pressure on your ward councillors and municipal officials to ensure that the budget for UISP is used for upgrading your settlement.

“Gap” housing

If you earn more than R3,500 but less than R15,000 per month (which is the minimum amount needed to qualify for a home loan from a bank), there are some state-driven housing initiatives which apply to you.

Financed Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP)

FLISP helps people who qualify for a home loan to buy a house for the first time. FLISP gives you a grant which can be used to reduce the initial loan amount. This will make your monthly repayments lower. Depending on how much you earn, you can apply for a grant up to R87,000.

FLISP grants can be used for both existing houses and to build a new one.

Besides getting approval for a home loan and earning between R3,500 and R15,000 per month, you must meet the same criteria as described for RDP houses above.

To apply for a FLISP grant, you must first go to your bank or financial institution and apply for a home loan. For that you will need:

  • Certified copy of your South African ID or passport/permanent residence permit

  • Copy of your signed Offer to Purchase the house or property

  • Proof of your current residential address

  • Official salary slip or stamped bank statement showing the last three months of income

To qualify for a home loan you have to be over 21, have been employed for a minimum of six months, have no defaults on your credit profile and earn above the minimum salary requirement as decided by your chosen bank. If your home loan application is denied, your FLISP application will not be considered.

Once this has been completed:

  • Ask for an “Approval in Principle” letter from the bank.

  • Register on the FLISP website: www.flisp.co.za or go to your municipal offices to register for a FLISP grant.

  • Compile the following certified documents for your application:

    • Home Loan Approval in Principle letter from your bank

    • Completed FLISP application form available from National Housing Finance Corporation (NHFC) website

    • RSA ID document or permanent residence permit

    • Certified copies of birth certificates/RSA IDs of all your dependents, and proof of foster children guardianship (where applicable)

    • Proof of marriage, civil union or partnership (an affidavit can be done for the latter)

    • Divorce settlement (where applicable)

    • Spouse’s death certificate (where applicable)

    • Proof of monthly income

    • Agreement of sale for the property or building contract and approved building plan (where applicable)

Once this is done, your completed FLISP application will be sent to the National Housing Finance Corporation to be processed.

Social housing programme (SHP)

Municipalities and provincial governments can subsidise companies to develop new housing projects if some of the houses are rented as affordable housing. This makes the building and planning of the projects cheaper, which makes rent lower.

Each municipality has to conduct an Integrated Development Plan every five years to see what the housing needs are. Participating in your community’s Integrated Development Plan Representative forum is a good way to communicate your housing needs to the municipality.

SHPs are mainly (but not only) for households earning between R3,500 and R7,500 per month. You can qualify even if you have benefited from other housing projects in the past, but you may not currently own property. Couples (married or living together) qualify, or single people with dependents.

To apply for an SHP, approach your local housing office about planned SHP projects in your area. Depending on the province and project, you may have to apply directly to the institution or company that is managing the SHP. It will have its own screening process.

Note: All of the above programmes tend to be advertised during the Integrated Development Plan Forums, or otherwise they should be advertised at local housing offices. Sometimes your municipality or province will advertise online on their websites. Keep a lookout for signs near new developments, or speak to your ward councillor about which projects are being planned.

In addition to all the above programmes government also has an Emergency Housing Projects programme, but this is seldom used, so we don’t cover it here.

Government housing assistance contact details

Housing Enquiries Hotline: 0800 146 873

Gauteng: 011 355 4000

Western Cape: 079 769 1207 (Please Call Me)

Eastern Cape: 043 711 9901/2/3

KwaZulu Natal: 033 392 6400 or 033 3365300

North West: 018 388 5403

Limpopo: 015 284 5000

Northern Cape: 053 830 9422

Free State: 051 405 3883

Mpumalanga: 013 766 6087

Initially written by Julia Chaskalson. Updated regularly.

Letters

Dear Editor

1996-99 housing applicants are still on the waiting list and their approved RDP houses are being occupied by unknown people.

In Khutsong, one person owns two RDP houses - has the approval letter for one and the title deed for the other.

In Wedela, the owner of the RDP is renting somewhere else while his house has been occupied by a person connected to an ANC councillor.

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