The advisory panel on land reform and agriculture advises the President to change the way land beneficiaries are selected. They want new Beneficiary Selection Guidelines to decide which people must get land first.
What land is given to state beneficiaries?
The state gives land distributed for land reform to state beneficiaries. It can be rural or urban, residential or agricultural. Examples are:
- land that belongs to the state,
- land bought or expropriated by the state, and
- land donated to the state by the private sector.
When the state gives land for housing, the land is usually given together with a subsidy that pays for building a house on the land. It has given millions of land parcels and houses since 1994.
What are beneficiary selection guidelines used for?
The state must process many beneficiary applications to decide who must benefit first. The land is usually given for free, or for a small financial contribution. Housing beneficiary selection guidelines include things like: number of dependents, earning less than a certain amount, and whether applicants already have a registered title deed for other land.
Will the land rights of state beneficiaries be secure?
The panel says we need a new Land Records Bill and a Consolidated Integrated Planning and Land Information System. This system will have to include processes for recording information about land beneficiaries. It will aim to secure everyone’s land tenure.
Will the new beneficiary selection policy only be rural or is it urban also?
We think the Presidential Advisory Panel Report means the selection policy must change for both. But this may not be the intention. The panel does not differentiate between residential and agricultural land when it discusses the new selection guidelines. It says in many places that urban and peri-urban land is more important for land reform than rural land. So it reads as if selection rules will change for urban, peri-urban and rural land. This might be a miscommunication.
Will this affect owners of state-subsidised housing?
Owners will not be affected unless their title deeds are not up to date. About a third of all residential land registered in the deeds office is properties that were state-subsidised. These properties have already been registered in the name of beneficiaries. So they own the land now as private owners or co-owners. It is uncertain how the new selection guidelines will affect beneficiaries who have not yet been issued with a title deed, or whose title deeds are outdated or inaccurate.
How many housing beneficiaries don’t have secure title deeds?
Research statistics for beneficiaries without title deeds are quite complicated. The stats that are most commonly used are below:
Presidential Advisory Panel Report (p69 – based on 2010 research)
According to the report, 5 million South Africans in RDP houses had no title deed, and 1.5 million had outdated or inaccurate deeds.
Gordon, Nell and di Lollo (pp 11 and 21 – research published in 2011)
25%-30% of all private residential properties registered in the deeds office were state beneficiaries. The state saw this as important for reforming private land ownership. 3.1 million units of free housing or serviced sites were delivered overall. 1.1 to 1.3 million subsidy beneficiaries were without title deeds (36%). There was an estimated backlog of 1.8 million title deeds for subsidy houses.
Hornby, Kingwill, Royston, Cousins ‘Untitled’ (pp6 and 8 – published in 2017 )
In 2011 there were 1 million beneficiaries of state housing in urban areas without title deeds, 5 million people in RDP houses with no title deed, and 1.5 million with outdated or inaccurate titles.
Backlog title deeds that have been registered since 2011
Since this 2011 research, the state has worked very hard to register the backlog of ‘RDP’ title deeds. Large volumes of deeds have been registered between 2011 and now. Some provinces have registered more than others. These stats are not covered in the panel report. You can find details in press coverage of the title deed backlog, or coverage of disputes over correct beneficiaries.
Will the upgrading of pre-1994 old order rights to ownership be affected?
Beneficiary selection policy does not affect older rights that are already established. But whose name will be put on the title deed is going to change. In the past when Permissions to Occupy (PTO’s) were upgraded, women were not given equal rights. Old records for land information only put men down as the household head. Then these men were upgraded to be the owners. This will not be allowed in future. The Constitutional Court says this must be fixed by appropriate legislation during next year (Rahube case).
How soon will the beneficiary selection policy change?
This is not a question we can answer now. Too many different things can affect this. A government policy is a statement of intent. It creates a system of principles to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. It is usually formed after stakeholder consultation. Policy is not the same as legislation, but it is often put into practice by legislation, regulations and codes. An example would be the guidelines for beneficiary selection in the Housing Code. Some policies are however put into practice without legislation.
How can we help?
Our Leslie Downie is a specialist in pro-poor urban land. She is uniquely skilled to give advice to government, NPO’s or the private sector on how beneficiary selection processes will affect the land information system.
For Michalsons services for other land information system concerns (such as accurate and reliable records and conflict resolution for land disputes) see How can we help you with your LIS needs?