Cautious optimism for City’s housing plan

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development.

Housing activists welcomed the announcement of the City of Cape Town’s affordable housing plan but said they would continue to resist eviction.

When Brett Herron, Mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, announced the City’s plans for the development of affordable housing, on Tuesday July 18, he said they had identified 10 City-owned sites in the city centre, Salt River and Woodstock which would be used.

Reclaim the City supporters, some of whom are facing eviction in Woodstock, also attended the briefing. However, this was only after security at the hotel where the announcement was being made, initially didn’t want to allow them entry to the conference room.

Mr Herron also addressed the supporters of Reclaim the City after the press briefing.

At the briefing, Mr Herron said: “Apartheid spatial planning consigned the majority of Capetonians to settlements far away from work, where residents had access to limited services and opportunities.

“Apart from creating a fragmented city, apartheid spatial planning was also characterised by little or no investment to stimulate economic activity in these settlements.

“We must acknowledge that, to date, our efforts to radically transform Cape Town’s spatial reality to enable all of our residents to participate more equally in the local economy have fallen short.

“The dire need for housing for Cape Town’s most vulnerable households is the single biggest challenge we are facing as a local government today.”

Mr Herron said the City estimated that about 650 000 families earning less than R13 000 a month would rely on government for some kind of housing assistance between now and 2032.

He said three of the 10 identified sites had already been allocated to social housing institutions.

“The statutory land-use applications are under way and we expect construction to commence in due course.”

He said the prospectus for the development of five sites in the city centre, Woodstock and Salt River would be issued within the next two months, and would encourage “tenure-blind” affordable housing developments where the design of the overall development was integrated into the surrounding area and did not distinguish between the differences in income and tenure within the development.

“We want these developments to offer a mixture of affordable housing typologies, including social housing, combined with market-related housing (for those who can pay).

“In some instances, we would also encourage mixed-use developments – thus, a combination of residential and retail and commercial units so that the business units can cross-subsidise the affordable housing units, in so doing ensuring the long-term sustainability of the development.”

He said the City currently had partnership agreements with five social housing companies to develop and manage affordable rental housing stock for lower- and middle-income residents.

“Given the acute demand for affordable housing, the City needs more social housing partners to help us up-scale and expedite the number of opportunities delivered in the short- to medium-term.

“Releasing more of the City’s land for social housing development will provide us and our new social housing partners with the ideal opportunity to work together to increase the delivery of affordable housing opportunities.”

He also said that they intended to develop the City of Cape Town’s very first inner-city transitional housing project in Salt River, less than 5km from the City’s CBD.

He added that more information about the development of this site would be available once they acquired council’s approval at its next meeting at the end of July.

Ntombi Sambu, a Reclaim the City supporter, said the announcement was a “small victory” for the organisation.

“The fact remains that people don’t want to move from Woodstock and they don’t want to go to Wolwerivier.

“Having transitional housing in Wolwerivier, we feel like that is not an option. He said they are looking for other sites around town, the people are going to wait. People are willing to resist evictions in Woodstock,” she said.

In a statement issued to the media, Reclaim the City described the announcement as “a step in the right direction”.

“Brett Herron should be commended for showing the leadership this city requires. But we are also cautious. We have heard many promises before only to be disappointed. What we need now is firm deadlines and implementation.”