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Policy Briefs

Challenges with the disbursement of funds to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on social housing

Authors Z. MazamaneC. Ndinda
OUTPUT TYPE: Policy briefs
Print HSRC Library: shelf number 9812492
handle 20.500.11910/19606
As one of the most vulnerable groups of people in society, low-income households, were severely affected by the impact of COVID-19, which was declared a state of national disaster. Many, such households experienced loss of income due to job losses or reduced wages resulting from economic activities being put on hold during the national lockdown. As a result, many of those in subsidised rented housing, also known as social housing, faced the threat of eviction due to non-payment of rent. Government allocated R300 million to provide relief to social housing tenants who were affected by the pandemic and defaulted on their rental obligations. Almost two years after the pandemic broke in South Africa, however, the social housing grant had hardly been spent. While the country was declared to be in a state of disaster and funds were made available to counter the negative effects, there were no policy frameworks and procedures to expedite the distribution of the funds. The National Department of Human Settlements had to establish a framework for the distribution of funds, which was only approved and came into effect in February 2021 - a year after the pandemic started. Moreover, government officials were risk averse and overly cautious about spending the funds after numerous scandals regarding the misuse of COVID-19 funds. Consequently, social housing tenants who were severely affected by the pandemic never received the assistance they desperately needed. This paper aims to bring attention to the adverse impact that standard government processes and procedures had on social housing tenants when they needed assistance the most. It cautions that while adhering to government regulations is important, putting the lives of people first is paramount, especially during times of national disaster or emergency.