Government will this year increase efforts to address the housing backlogs in South Africa, despite the growing waiting lists in informal settlements.
The current housing backlog is about 2.1 million homes, which includes about 1.1 million people in informal settlements and 800 000 families living in "backyard" accommodation of already existing brick houses.
However, the backlog continues to increase with South Africa at the upper end of international rural-to-urban migration patterns, said the Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, ahead of her ministry's Budget Vote in Parliament.
Current international statistics show migration to the cities of the world increasing at a rate of about three percent per year.
Ms Sisulu said therefore one could predict that as many as 1.2 million people move into urban areas per year, with many of these people moving to Gauteng.
Gauteng is seen as the location of the most potential employers as well as the Western Cape.
An audit by specialist accounting and business consulting firm KPMG pointed to a funding shortfall of R102 billion by 2012 to eliminate the ever-increasing backlog, the minister said.
If these funds were not available for the 2012 period, then by 2016 the funding shortfall would increase to R253 billion.
This would then fall one year after the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals, the international goals aimed at halving poverty and unemployment by 2015.
Therefore, it makes "fiscal and economic sense" to increasingly involve the private sector in the provision of housing, the minister said.
Already, R38 billion of the R42 billion invested in housing assistance by the private sector has already been disbursed, to about 810 000 families, she said, adding that these were primarily the country's big banks.
Ms Sisulu praised the sector's increasing involvement in finding solutions to the country's housing dilemma.
She hoped that the target of R48 billion of disbursements towards housing financing by the private sector would be reached by the end of this year.
Government, which has already seen government providing 2.6 million houses since 1994, is on track with its objectives, said Ms Sisulu.
She added that government continued to be "sensitive" to the housing needs of those who live in shacks erected in the backyards of other families' homes, adding that these families would receive priority.
These families have spent years on housing waiting lists.
She said the improvements in housing developments and the approach towards integrated human settlements have contributed to improved living conditions for the South Africans who had benefited from these programmes.
The housing budget is projected to grow from R9 billion in the last year to R10.6 billion in the 2008/2009 financial year, and then to R15.3 billion by 2010/2011, with growth slowing slightly to an average annual rate of 19.4 percent, according to the minister. - BuaNews