Post-1994 South Africa saw the democratically elected government implement various programmes and strategies to undo the structural oppression of the apartheid era.  One such endeavour is the Reconstruction and Development Programme. The aim was to provide better social services for previously disadvantaged South Africans by allocating tax money for development projects.  The broader picture was not only focus on poverty, but to build a stronger macro- economic environment. Even though the government has lots of obstacles to overcome, like widespread corruption,  it is working towards the rapid provision of promised housing to the poor and previously disadvantaged.

According to The Department of Housing, three million RDP houses have been built and delivered benefitting about 20 million people. So, let’s take a closer look at this initiative.

Who qualifies for an RDP house?

The primary goal of RDP housing is to replace shacks that are usually found in townships and provide low-income people with a certain amount of dignity and quality of life.  It’s important to note that Government Subsidy house are owned, not rented, by the beneficiaries.

Of course, there are certain requirements to qualify for an RDP house.  Applicants must be:

  • A South African citizen
  • Over 21 years old and be mentally sound to sign a contract
  • A first-time government subsidy recipient and homeowner.
  • Married or living with a partner, or single and have dependents (children don’t necessarily have to be your own). Military veteran and the elderly also qualify.
  • Earning less than R3,500 per month, per household.  This means that if it is a two-person household, and the combined income is more than R3,500, you won’t qualify.

Furthermore, South Africans with disabilities are supposed to get preference when it comes to allocation subsidised housing, and the house must be built so that it is accessible.

What is the RDP application process?

To apply for a government subsidy house, you have to approach the provincial office on the Department of Housing or municipal offices with the following documents:

  • You and your spouse or partner’s identity documents (green book or ID card)
  • Certified copies of children’s birth certificates (if applicable)
  • Proof of income if working, e.g. pay slip

As it stands, there is a substantial waiting list and the Department of Housing faces a massive backlog when it comes to allocation houses and issuing title deeds.  So, it is by no means a smooth process.  Applicants’ names are added to a database, and will be notified when their house is ready.

Disabled applicants will get preference, the specific needs of disabled persons are recorded and customised houses that meet their needs are then built for these beneficiaries.

TIP: You can double check if your name is on the list via the internet.  Simply visit and enter your ID number. 

Owning and Selling an RDP House

As mentioned earlier, people who are granted an RDP house aren’t renting the property from the government; in fact, they are owners.  To make this official in the eyes of the law, a Title Deed is issue and must be registered at the deeds office for it to be valid.

Again, this can be quite the process and, beneficiaries of the RDP housing system sometimes stay on the property for years before receiving Title Deeds.  This means that upon receipt of the house the RDP beneficiaries do not immediately become the full owners of such properties.

Bear in mind that the general maintenance of the house is the responsibility of the owner(s).  Of course,  maintenance after receiving of RDP house is the responsibility of family. While maintaining the infrastructure is the duty of the municipality, the onus is on you to look after the house and ensure that it stays in a good condition.

Can I sell my RDP house?

The law prohibits the sale of an RDP before the lapse of an 8-year occupancy without the permission of the Department of Housing.  Should you want to ‘sell’ your house during this initial period, it must first be offered back to the State. Do note:  you won’t be paid for your house because low-cost housing isn’t meant to be a profitable venture.  However, you will be eligible for another RDP (if you still qualify).

Once the 8-year period expires and you wish to sell your house, preference must be given to the State first.  Your house can only be sold to another party with written consent from the Department of Housing.

According to recent articles, the Department is working on what legal actions they will take against a beneficiary should they try and sell the house illegally.

What if I get Divorced or Break Up with my Partner?

Upon divorce, the Court will determine what will happen to the RDP house you received.  All parties involved can agree to sell and share the amount received. Of course, the 8-year rule (mentioned above) still applies.

It’s important to note that on application the names of both partners are then added onto a database. If they separate from their partner whose name appears in the database, they will not be granted another subsidy with a new partner. As you are only entitled to one subsidy ever.

If I Pass Away, What Happens to the House?

As a legitimate beneficiary who has a Title Deed stating that you were a registered owner, you will be entitled to include the property in your Will and state who you want to inherit the property.

The goal of RDP housing, according to the Department, is to keep these houses in the family.

If you do not have a Will in place, the provincial Housing Department should have a record of the dependants you have listed, and they will be entitled to stay in the dwelling until such a time that they are able to acquire properties via their own financial means.

Buying an RDP House

If you are interested in buying an RDP house should check that the property is not subject to the restrictive conditions. If you are uncertain,  approach the local Housing department to find out.

In the event that you are offered an RDP house without the seller having the necessary documentation (title deed & permission), you should also report them to their local Housing Department and the Police.

Department of Human Settlements can be contacted as follows:

Housing enquiries – toll free Customer service hotline – 0800 146 873 / 012 421 1915

Fraud hotline – 0800 204401

Stay clued up and know your rights with this Useful Guide to Resolving Cases through the Small Claims Court.