The Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) reveals that it is ready to roll-out the much-anticipated Residential Rent Relief Programme that will significantly assist social housing tenants, impacted financially by the Covid-19 pandemic, meet their rental obligations.

Photo by ©SA Affordable Housing

Photo by ©SA Affordable Housing

The Department of Human Settlements has allocated R600-million to the residential relief scheme, of which, R300-million has been allocated for rental relief to support social housing institutions.

The Residential Rent Relief Programme will be made available retrospectively from 1 April 2020. It will run for a period of approximately six months or until funding is exhausted, whichever comes first. Only South African citizens are eligible to apply for relief.

“The SHRA and social housing sector remain committed not only to containing the spread of Covid-19 in social housing projects to ensure tenants and staff are protected; but to also successfully roll out this financially sustainable tool in this time of great need, to ensure that tenants financially impacted by Covid-19 are offered relief,” says acting CEO Mpolai Nkopane.

She adds that the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in some social housing tenants losing part of or all their household incomes; and their ability to afford rentals during the official lockdown period upheld for South Africa. In some instances, this continues to be an ongoing challenge.

Concurrently, the social housing service providers need to continue to provide a property management service to tenants with the provision of these service costs paid for through rental payments.

“The Residential Rent Relief Programme calls on social housing landlords to create a balance between providing rental-relief support for negatively affected tenants, while maintaining income flows that permit them to continue providing a property management service,” states Nkopane.

The provisions of the scheme indicates that social housing delivery agents with social housing units under management, who are regulated by the SHRA, can apply on behalf of their tenants.

Nkopane further states that, to participate in the Residential Rent Relief Programme, social housing landlords will have to undertake to not institute eviction proceedings against any tenant in respect of rentals which were not fully paid by such tenant during the period April 2020 to September 2020, on condition that the tenant was in good financial standing as of 31 March 2020.  Tenants also need prove that their household income was substantially reduced due to the state of disaster resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are several other guiding principles underpinning the Residential Rent Relief Programme, which includes the fact that all social housing landlords including municipal-owned entities will be eligible to apply on behalf of their tenants; social housing landlords will have to do the means testing and verification of documents submitted by tenants.

SHRA explains that the total available funds will be distributed fairly across provinces. The funds will be allocated according to the proportion of total social housing units under regulation in that province as a percentage of social housing units under regulation nationally.

If funds proportionally allocated as a budget for a specific province are exhausted, the fund will be closed for that province, and no further payment will be awarded for that specific province – unless a decision is made by the Minister responsible for Human Settlements for virement of funds allocated to another province which is determined to have underspent.