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Changing public sector provision of housing in SA – an example of a Theory of Change

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Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA) – State-sponsored housing must solve the challenge of how to provide housing that can serve as a financial asset for the poor, says the writer.

By Percy Makholwa

South Africa is a developmental state waiting to happen and the measurement of its success will be the creative resolve of its massive inequality.

The game changer in public administration will always be efficient and well-targeted public sector project management. Subsequent considerations must be looked at to create an impactful theory of change.

The conceptualisation for public benefit

There must be a proper understanding of project management. The best way to achieve this is to establish what the public sector calls a theory of change. The theory of change for the service delivery orientation in South Africa must be targeted toward solving the inequality in South Africa.

In the case of housing, for example, it is the provision of housing that translates to bankable assets, which is when the State provides houses that the poor can use as collateral as they seek banking finance for business or education. The theory of change, therefore, must have appropriate detail.

For example, State-sponsored housing must solve the challenge of how to provide housing that can serve as a financial asset for the poor.

This theory of change framework is something the State needs to invest in at the planning stage, and the National Treasury needs to have the veto power to approve and disapprove projects that do not coherently answer the guiding questions behind the theory of change.

These guiding questions are: What problem is the State housing provision addressing? Who does the State hope to help with the project? How does the State ensure benefits for the targeted beneficiaries? What steps are needed to solve the problem and bring about the desired change? What are the measurable results of housing provision projects in the short to medium term? What are the measurable results of State projects in the long term?

In the case of housing development, for instance, the answer to what problem is the State addressing is to provide housing that facilitates economic and social equality across race and economic strata for the South African poor.

The measurement for which is housing with a market value that is recognised by the banking sector, thus, turning the State housing subsidy into a tool for indirect wealth distribution.

The second question of who the State hope to help is answered by looking at the people most affected by inequality, including women, the elderly, the unemployed firstly, and the lower echelons of the employed in South Africa.

The third question – how does the State ensure that the project has benefits for the intended beneficiaries – the answer is that the State cannot build houses that have economic value without co-planning and co-sponsoring with the banking sector.

Therefore, the massive investment in housing must be underwritten by banks.

Fourth, what are the steps that will bring the change? In keeping with the above answers, the State will have to partner with the banks and developers in identifying the location, the quantity and the quality of the supply to housing demand.

The tripartite alliance between the banking sector, developers and State will need to categorise the homeless population, for example

(a) employed or employable and skilled

(b) unskilled and employable

(c ) entrepreneurial and skilled

(d) unskilled, unemployed, and un-entrepreneurial State-dependent.

This is important because the housing waiting list is populated by persons with potential, some latent, some operating, and some expired. Thus, the categorisation would differentiate people as able to turn the State subsidy into an investment autonomously or people that will need extra support and cushioning for reaching their economic development and social mobility beyond dependency.

The fifth question is, what are the measurable results of the projects in the medium term? The answer is housing development and delivery in “well located” and economically viable land. The implication is that the much-punted spatial apartheid would increasingly become smaller, and people would live where there are economic opportunities.

Percy Makholwa is reading his Masters in Ubuntu and Property Ownership, he is also studying toward project management certification.

This article is original to the The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.