Provincial cabinet to decide on Tafelberg

Architects Ruvimbo Moyo and Loyiso Qaqanes impression of the proposed mixed-use and social housing development on the Tafelberg site, as seen from Sea Point Main Road. This impression was included in Ndifuna Ukwazis submission to cabinet.

Provincial cabinet is set to decide the future of the contested Tafelberg site in Sea Point next week.

Since Reclaim The City and Ndifuna Ukwazi identified a piece of government-owned land in Sea Point that could be used to address the housing crisis in the Western Cape, the debate about affordable housing in the inner city has continued unabated.

After the Western Cape High Court reversed the provincial Department of Public Works’ R135 million sale of the Tafelberg site to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School last year, Ndifuna Ukwazi has blocked the sale of the land (“RTC block province’s land bid”, Atlantic Sun, May 26 2016).

The following month, the Green Point, City Bowl, Bo-Kaap and Woodstock residents’ and ratepayers’ associations showed their support for affordable housing at the Tafelberg site and the Reclaim The City campaign (“Ratepayers support social housing”, Atlantic Sun, June 23 2016). In November, the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works, published its model which demonstrated that in principle, social housing was feasible and affordable on the Tafelberg site, proposing a mixed-use development with 270 social housing units, a public park and space for shops, leaving the old school building for community use.

After the release of the feasibility study, provincial government received more than 800 submissions both for and against affordable housing at the location.

One of the submissions that province will consider on Wednesday March 22 will be a petition that more than 250 members of the Jewish community signed. The submission, which appeared in the Atlantic Sun as a full page advert last week, stated that they supported social housing at the Tafelberg site. “This will mean a united, diverse, safe and prosperous and welcoming city,” they said.

“Yet rising property prices exacerbate the segregation inherent in the original apartheid spatial planning, resulting in a need for government to take an active role in creating an inclusive city. Tafelberg, a large tract of land on the Atlantic Seaboard owned by the Western Cape government, represents a welcome opportunity to provide subsidised rental housing desperately needed in the inner-city.”

One of the people who signed the petition and submission to province was Daniel Linde who grew up in Sea Point and went to a private Jewish school. He believes a more inclusive city will benefit everyone living in it. “I believe that public land should be used for public good. Everyone wants to live in an inclusive place, with people from different classes, that has access to the best resources and public places.”

Another person who signed the petition, Gillian Benjamin, said she signed it because Tafelberg was a huge opportunity to create an example of best practice in terms of mixed-use social housing that offers residents direct access to the economic opportunities of the inner-city. “As a property owner on a road alongside the Tafelberg site, I could see myself as being ‘directly affected’ by potential loss in value of my property, or, alternatively, I could see this as a huge opportunity to be part of the change that our city so badly needs,” she said. “We need to fight the knee-jerk NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) reaction and see this as a small step, and potentially catalytic step, to undo some of the injustices of the past. As a Jew, our history is marked by spacial exclusion and ‘ghettoisation’ – we need to realise when we are on the other side of such processes and fight especially hard to rectify the situation. Neighbourhoods should be diverse and allow equal access to jobs and opportunities.”

Julian Sendin, a researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi, said the call for inclusive housing had been consistent across race and class, highlighting the submission by the progressive Jewish community sent to province as an example.

“If the province even takes a middle ground decision, we will go back to court. We believe that we have submitted a win-win solution and province will be irrational should they go ahead with the sale.”

In a press statement issued on Tuesday March 14, Ndifuna Ukwazi said: “What is perhaps most promising about this alternative is that it presents a blueprint for a truly mixed-used site which maximises cross-subsidisation of affordable housing in a high-income area. This is unprecedented in South African cities.

“We believe that this model could be applied to unlock highly valuable public land for affordable housing – from Sea Point to Sandton. In so doing, we can begin to desegregate our cities.”

The statement further read: “Premier Helen Zille and Provincial Cabinet are set to decide on the future of the Tafelberg site at a cabinet meeting on March 22. Although various cabinet ministers have expressed opinions and preferences, it all comes down to the evidence on feasibility. Legally, well-located land can never be surplus and sold when it is feasible to use it for service delivery.

“She will now have to consider the thousands of objections to the sale of Tafelberg and this model for a truly visionary and just alternative for the site and make a reasonable decision that can stand up in court having taken into account all the arguments and evidence.”

Asked for his response to the matter, Lance Katz, vice-chairperson of the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School, said: “Province need to make a decision whether to uphold the sale agreement with PJJDS or resile from the agreement. We will abide by whatever decision they make in this regard.”

Ms Zille’s spokesman, Michael Mpofu, confirmed that cabinet would make its decision known in the coming days based on the submissions received.