The truth about black vs white land and home ownership in SA

 ·24 Apr 2016

Providing housing and land ownership to black South Africans within the new democracy has been a huge success story according to economist, Mike Schussler.

Chief economist at, Schussler expects that by the end of the year, black ownership of South Africa’s primary residential market could be up to as much as 60%.

This is up from 41.7% in 2009, where white ownership was at 43.8%, coloured ownership at 8.3% and Indian ownership at 6.2%.

By 2015, black South Africans owned 52% of the value of houses in SA, while whites owned about 35%, with coloured and Indian ownership making up the difference.

“I expect that by the time we get this years data from the community survey we will find that including second houses, black South Africans will own about 60% of all houses,” schussler said.

The economist said that black South Africans have owned more value in housing stock than whites for a number of years if second houses are taken into account. On main dwellings only, the change took place around 2010, “and we are seeing more and more of the total residential housing stock in black African hands”.

“The white population is getting older and declining and they are moving into smaller retirement villages and the like while the median age of Africans is about 23 up from 21 years about five years ago,” Schussler said.

“There is no doubt that  black families are increasing their housing stock and they are doing so fast. I think this is one of the major success of SA at present and with two thirds of all families owning their own home this is an important thing that will make sure we have no African Spring,” the economist said.

Schussler was expanding on comments he made in February.

Schussler told Fin24 at the time: “The economic question is: who would lose the most if land was nationalised or who benefits from the very old slogans that have never been tested by data in the first place?”

In his view, tensions are increased and laws debated on things, which current evidence suggests are no longer true.

“Again, the questions of who benefits from pronouncing land reform a failure and who benefits from the racial tensions, clearly show it would not be the country or any of its people,” said Schussler.

“Nobody ever seems to have checked the total number of private houses built. Strange that, with so many statements made, no-one puts facts out there which are readily available on a government agency website.”

“Less tension will create better understanding and opportunities for all. It will promote growth and help.”

With about 15.6 million households in South Africa at present, and the number of households having grown faster than the population for some time now, it is clear that between 38% and 46% of households live in homes that have been built since 1994.

“With white families only making up 10% of all households, they could not be living in all the new houses built – even if not one of them had their own house in 1994, which was certainly not the case,” Schussler said.

“Since 1994 the private sector in the bigger municipalities has constructed 1.625 million residential buildings and that alone is more than the estimated total number of white households of 1.62 million.”

Even going as far as to assume no whites had a house in 1994 and no white families rent – actually 180 000 do and some stay with family for free – the number of houses built since 1994 cannot be for whites, said Schussler.

He challenged allegations that whites own 80% of the land and blacks 20%.

“These statistics also do not include places like Bushbuck Ridge or Thayandou where tens of thousands of new homes have been built by people themselves. It does not include construction at Nkandla or on other rural and tribal land,” said Schussler.

Furthermore, apart from the 4 million so-called RDP houses government has built since 1994, there are many that had been built in places like Diepsloot and Orange Farm without approved building plans they are therefore not counted.

“Conservatively, over 6 million new homes have been built in South Africa and many older homes have seen transfer of ownership. At the top end of estimates – including tribal and rural land the number could even exceed 7 million,” said Schussler.

Even a conservative approach to Statistics SA’s Household Survey of 2014 seem to indicate that Africans now claim to own about 52% of the land that households claim to own if measured by size of the property.

Another way to view land or property ownership is to look at the value people give to their land. Here another success story becomes apparent, in Schussler’s view.

Again using data from the general household survey of Statistics SA, he said it is clear that the majority of first owned properties is African owned. Moreover, more than ten times the number of Africans stated that their formal property is fully paid off compared to whites.

Schussler admitted that whites as a group are very small in the overall population and are still over-represented as owner-occupiers, but they certainly are no longer the majority owners and they do not own 80% of the land.

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