Port Elizabeth – The successful development and country-wide replication of affordable, sustainable housing projects has won national recognition for the GM South Africa Foundation’s housing project manager, Lance del Monte, recently named the Housing Person of the Year 2014 by the Southern Africa Housing Foundation (SAHF).
Del Monte has led the development of a series of housing projects which have provided new homes for more than 2 800 families in Nelson Mandela Bay, and created 2 400 jobs in their construction. Through replication of the models piloted and refined by the GMSA Foundation, other organisations across South Africa have delivered a further 12 700 new homes to lower-income families.
“Lance’s significant contribution to transforming the housing environment in South Africa is two-fold – he has piloted six innovative government-subsidised housing projects which have won multiple awards because they demonstrate the positive impact of integration, densification, affordability and choice.
“Secondly, he has promoted replication of the projects by developing and marketing them as ‘out-of-the-box’ models, which are now being used by many other agencies across the country. Each successive project has further challenged outdated approaches to housing and so we have had an impact on moving the housing debate forward and influenced national policy,” GMSA Foundation general manager Roger Matlock said.
The latest in a string of regional and national awards for the GMSA Foundation’s innovative approach to addressing South Africa’s housing challenges, the SAHF award commended Del Monte’s “vision, leadership, passion and professional approach”, and his positive contribution to sustainable housing development in South Africa.
Del Monte, who has led the GMSA Foundation’s housing initiatives since its inception in 1994, said the Foundation’s housing projects are designed to maximise access to government subsidies for lower-income groups and aim to “do more than simply provide a roof over their heads”.
“Housing is multi-layered and complex – it’s a process, not a technical solution. It is about so much more than just a house; it’s about people and families, each with their own unique needs. Our projects are about seeking solutions to house the vulnerable, people in the lower income end of the market where it is difficult to afford housing – we are closing the gap for them,” he said.
The projects are designed to provide housing that is affordable over the long-term through finance packages and use of standardised building materials that minimise waste and contain both building and maintenance costs.
“By designing for higher residential densities per hectare, the projects reduce land and services costs, and provide accommodation for more people in larger units by using designs such as row houses and walk-ups that share walls and common services,” Del Monte said.
The projects have been widely recognised for their impact on facilitating city integration and breaking down apartheid geo-spatial boundaries. Del Monte cited the Walmer Link project, straddling the divide between Port Elizabeth’s Walmer township and the upmarket Walmer residential suburb, which had delivered selling prices below current levels in the township as well as offering choices in tenure (rent or buy), housing types and affordability levels for people earning from R1 500 to R15 000 per month.
“Offering these choices makes the development accessible to people with differing income levels, and gives people a foot on the property ladder, as well as allowing them upward and downward mobility within the same community as their personal circumstances change,” Del Monte said.
Recognising the need to build and nurture sustainable “wholesome communities”, all the projects include support programmes and livelihood strategies to meet basic social and economic needs and improve the overall sustainability of the community. These have included programmes such as skills training, urban agriculture and enterprise development.
The growing success of the projects prompted the GMSA Foundation to establish The Home Market, an independent non-profit housing development agency. Del Monte is executive director of The Home Market, which is actively looking for opportunities to implement the Foundation’s successful models in more housing developments in the Eastern Cape.
“Establishing The Home Market is exactly in line with the GMSA Foundation’s approach to corporate social investment – rather than grant-making, we focus on project management of development solutions which can become self-sustaining and be replicated elsewhere. Our corporate social action is to invest in projects in order to develop models which can be given away freely to other development organisations for replication, as well as influencing government policy and planning in dealing with the challenges in housing and education in South Africa,” Matlock said.
Del Monte acknowledged the team of “dedicated, focused people who understand what we need to do for people to live better lives”.
“I have to thank the GMSA Foundation for providing me with the carte blanche to experiment over many years, and the space to make a difference by helping to provide shelter for people,” he said.
The award-winning pilot projects, all located in Nelson Mandela Bay, are Missionvale (alternative to conventional RDP housing), Abahlali (rent-to-buy), Sakhasonke Village (updated RDP housing alternative), Walmer Link (incorporating social housing, rental and finance-linked ownership components), and Fairview (social/rental housing).