Everything you need to know about government housing

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

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Photo of RDP house

Photo: Thembela Ntongana

Last updated: 3 August 2022.

This article is regularly updated. Please alert us to inaccuracies or omissions. GroundUp is not the government and we are not responsible for what government does. Many people have been on waiting lists for decades, and we frequently receive allegations of corruption in the allocation of houses. While this information sheet will not make the housing process more efficient and fair, we hope that it will make you aware of what the policies are so you can exercise your rights.

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 contacting 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 homeowner

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, enter your ID number on the Online Housing Subsidy Portal, 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.

Note: The Department of Human Settlements no longer refers to RDP houses but has updated the RDP housing plan, and now calls it “Breaking New Ground” or BNG. They want to integrate different types of housing – rented, bought and subsidised – and provide facilities like schools, clinics and shops, to improve the quality of people’s lives. BNG houses are supposed to be larger than RDP houses, with two bedrooms, a separate bathroom with a toilet, shower and hand basin, a combined kitchen and living room area and electricity installation, where electricity supply is available in the township. The same conditions apply to qualify for a BNG house as for an RDP house.

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 R22,000 per month (which is the minimum amount needed to qualify for a home loan from a bank), there are some state-driven housing initiatives that apply to you, such as Financed Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP):

Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP)

The Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP) is a “Help-Me-Buy-a-Home” Scheme.

FLISP helps people who qualify for a home loan to buy a house for the first time. Your total monthly household income should be between R3,501 to R22,000. FLISP gives you a grant which can be used to reduce the initial loan amount. This will make your monthly repayments lower. It can also be used as a deposit.

The programme was revised in February 2022. Now, FLISP can be implemented with mortgage and non-mortgage housing finance products.

The FLISP subsidy ranges between R30,001 to R130,505. The less you earn per month, the larger the FLISP grant you qualify for. In other words, if you earn R3,501, you will qualify for the maximum grant value.

You may apply to FLISP for the following purposes:

  • Buy an existing home—secondary market;
  • Buy a new home in a new development;
  • Buy a vacant serviced residential stand;
  • Build a new home; or
  • Build a home on a tribal land available through Permission to Occupy.

When applying for FLISP, and depending on a household situation, a certified copy of each of the following documents is required (where applicable):

  • Smart Card or a barcoded identity document of every adult member of the household;
  • Birth certificates, bearing the 13-digit identity number, for every child member of the household that does not have a barcoded identity document;
  • Proof of South African citizenship;
  • Marriage certificate for any union solemnised in terms of civil law;
  • Affidavit for any union solemnised in terms of customary law;
  • Divorce settlement agreement, to prove custodianship;
  • Court order or order issued by the Commissioner of Child Welfare, to prove guardianship; and,
  • Proof of sources of income.

You can apply for FLISP online at this link: https://www.nhfc.co.za/finance-solutions/finance-linked-individual-subsidy-finance-flisp/

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 occasionally.

TOPICS:  Housing

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Write a letter in response to this article


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.

Dear Editor

My daughter applied for a house in 1996 but she still hasn't received it while people who applied after her have received houses.

I thought the government distributed houses according to the list?

Dear Editor

Thank you for this information. You really open our eyes to what is happening about these houses.

My mother passed away in 1999. We were both running up and down to check what is happening with this Ziveze campaign but no answer. What surprised me is these people who registered in 2000 got houses. I went to check; I was told to register myself again.

What must I do with the Form C of 96 of my mother because she has passed on?

Dear Editor

Me and my family use to stay in Eersteriver. Renting a house. After the owner came and remove my family things started to happen. My mom applied for a RDP house in 1994 and has been waiting ever since.

We moved from house to house. Backyard to backyard. Location to location. In the process we lost a lot and my granny passed away. I then decided to apply and see maybe the process would be different. People who applied long after me has got the property. How long still I have to wait to put my old mother in a place?

Dear Editor

I've been on the waiting list for more than ten years. There is people coming from other places that apply for a house. Knowing that they will get one because off this age thing that is in. Why must people stand back for a house when people come from other provinces just because they are pensioners.

Can't the municipality look into things like this? There are a lot of people that is getting a house and than they don't live in the house. They go back to the province and rent the house out. That means that people doing that don't need the house. Why can't municipalities look into things like that.

Dear Editor

In my opinion everyone including pensioners can afford to build a shelter if we all have land. I am presently earning between R4000 to R4000 I still leave in squatter camp reason I don't qualify for a house but I think if I had a land I would have built my own house by now.
Why doesn't government introduce affordable sale of land using the same criteria used to buy for RDP because honestly government is failing to meet every one's need for housing.

Dear Editor

I applied for a house in 2009. This was before I got married. I recently went back and fill in forms for a subsidy for myself. They didn't even check on the system, I was just told to come back next year.

Just a few weeks ago I was told by another person that my application failed because I'm married. The problem is that my husband and I are no longer together. We have three children together but are not divorced. So does this mean I wont get a house for my kids?

Dear Editor

My name is Thembisa from Cape town. I applied for a RDP house 2012 and still have not heard anything back. I am backyarder and have been renting for seven years. Now I've contracted T.B because of the environment I live in. I have 2 children without home. Why are we voting for if the Government does not look after our needs?

Dear Editor

I have been on the waiting list for more than 10 years now. I am staying in one of our community sample houses that was built and is registered under our municipality. I am married with 4 kids, I'm working but my husband is unemployed and really want to own a house of my own but have too much expenditure.

What can I do since most of the community is fighting for the house I stay in.

Dear Editor

I'm from De Aar in the Northern Cape. I applied for a subsidy in 1994 and have not received a house. I have been going up and down to find out but still nothing and I still apply but others who have applied after me got the subsidy houses.

Dear Editor

I applied for a RDP house in 2005, still no house even today. I have to vacate the place where I'm staying end of May 2019. I don't know where to go. It's me, my husband and our two daughters.
I support the idea that the government must give affordable land sale as subsidy, then you build your own house. Because I'm working but I cant afford to buy a house.

Dear Editor

I am a 38 year old widow with three kids. I could never qualify for a home loan because my salary never met the criteria. Since my husband passed away in 2015, I applied a RDP house but was send back because I'm working. I was referred to other avenues but without any success either.

I am still staying with friends since 2015, and it just broke my heart to know that the government does not cater for struggling single parents who do not benefit from any free services. What can I do to get a house in this country? I was born here in South Africa and still don't benefit from my own country. But foreigners benefit more than us. It is a shame what this country has become.

Dear Editor

I have been renting since 2011. I have children and a husband but we cannot afford to build our own house – we have been rejected twice. Why is it so hard to get an RDP house? The government is not being fair. When we vote, we are not asked how much we earn. You can earn over R3,500 per month and still not be able to build your own house. I don't think one would apply for a house that one doesn't need! They say 18 to 35 years as if you when you're 36 you qualify for an old age grant. How would we be able to get work if the government doesn't give us an opportunity? Things have to change. We are all voters – R3500 or not; 18 to 35 or not.

Dear Editor

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

I know of one person owns two RDP houses - has the approval letter for one and the title deed for the other.

I also know of an RDP owner who is renting somewhere else while his house has been occupied by a person connected to a government councillor.

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