PRETORIA, South Africa – South Africa’s government is launching an ambitious plan to build 400,000 homes for people living in shacks on the outskirts of the nation’s cities, the president said Thursday.

President Jacob Zuma, addressing a media briefing in Pretoria, said the state aims to provide the new homes with “essential services” by 2014, paid for out of state budgets. He did not give further details on the cost of the project.

Cabinet ministers and top officials approved the program during a government retreat that is held twice a year, he said.

The South African Institute of Race Relations, a think tank, in recent research said about 14 percent of poor households in the country live in shacks and shantytowns outside cities. The remaining poor live in city, suburban and formal urban township houses.

Crime and unrest over inadequate housing and utilities is common in South Africa’s burgeoning squatter camps known officially as “informal settlements.”

“This will provide households with security of tenure as well as access to essential services in sites which are close to economic and other social amenities,” Zuma said.

South Africa’s successful hosting of the recent World Cup has also led the government to intensify infrastructure building, including power stations, solar, water, gas pipeline, rail and bus transit projects, he said.

Zuma said a special Cabinet meeting would also be held soon to focus on economic growth and creation of jobs.