President Jacob Zuma had many South Africans up in arms recently when he stated that "…the ownership of the economy remains primarily in white hands as it has always been…" during his speech at the opening of the African National Congress’ policy conference.
Debating whether this statement is accurate when applied to the economy in general is an arduous task best left to economists and politicians. There is, however, one section of the economy where the claim can be easily debunked — that of the residential property market.
South Africa has a high ownership rate of 62 percent - higher than Germany or the UK. According to economist Mike Schussler, as quoted in the Mail and Guardian, black South Africans own 41 percent of all residential property, whites 43 percent, coloureds nine percent and Indians at seven percent (it must be noted that these statistics define a house as a formal structure, a shack or a traditional dwelling).
According to the 2001 Census conducted by Stats SA, black South Africans occupy the highest percentage of house/brick structures on a separate stand or yard in all provinces except the Western Cape (though these statistics don’t indicate whether these structures are rented or owned).
This group also leads in terms of flat occupation in most provinces.
While the fact remains that the number of black people living in informal settlements far outstrip that of any other group in the country, the numbers do indicate that the trend is shifting.
Research by mortgage originator Betterbond indicates at almost 50 percent of all home loan applications are now being made by black people — as opposed to 12 percent in 2002.
Jan le Roux, CEO of Leapfrog Property Group, laments the fact that so many black South Africans have been saddled with bad credit records, often through inexperience.
"This, coupled with the fact that certain affordable areas are by the stroke of a pen deemed too high a risk for lending purposes, still has a huge negative impact."
According to the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), one of the possible explanations for this shift in home ownership is the fact that the percentage of adults with the lowest living standards has dropped by 77 percent over the last decade.
In fact, the report indicates that: "Over the same period the proportion of adults in the top three LSM categories, LSMs eight to 10, has increased by 25 percent. In 2001, 16 percent of adults were in LSMs eight to 10, while by 2010 this had increased to 20 percent, or one in five adults."
Article continues on page two and three...