In 1994 the housing backlog was estimated to be 1.2 million homes for the black population, while there is a surplus of white housing units of 83,000. In the late 1990s, there was an explosive growth of shacks and shantytowns surrounding South Africa's major urban areas. This backlog and demand translated into the need to build 250,000 dwelling units a year in the last years of the 20th century, or roughly 1,000 units per working day; however, only about one-tenth of that number—25,000 dwelling units— were built each year, leaving the country with a serious housing shortage.
Most of the black townships and squatter settlements lack the basic infrastructure and services of water, sewage, and electricity. Efforts to solve South Africa's housing problem must focus not only on construction, but on servicing current and prospective sites by building roads and providing electricity, sanitation, and water. For example, an estimated 66% of the country's population have no access to electricity, and in most black townships there is only one water tap per several thousand people.