Ratepayers support social housing

The Reclaim the City campaign has received the support of the Green Point, City Bowl, Bo-Kapp and Woodstock ratepayers' associations.

While various ratepayers’ bodies have shown their support for Reclaim the City’s affordable housing campaign, the Sea Point Fresnaye and Bantry Bay Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association has distanced themselves from the debate.

The Reclaim the City campaign has, however, received support from the Green Point, City Bowl, Bo-Kaap and Woodstock ratepayers’ associations.

One of the sites the campaign is focusing on is the 1.7 hectare Tafelberg Remedial School site in Main Road, Sea Point, which was sold to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School for R135 million.

In the face of mounting public pressure to make the site available for affordable housing, the controversial sale of the site was stopped last month and the Western Cape government, ordered by the Cape Town High Court to reopen the public participation process.

The deadline for this process was Thursday June 9.

The Green Point Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association showed their support by objecting to the sale. They said that “mixed income housing, is a social solution that is shown throughout the world to create opportunities for the economically excluded and to reduce polarisation by bridging a growing divide between rich and poor.”

Luke Stevens said since 1994, there had been no new affordable housing provided anywhere near the economic centre of Cape Town. “When people are evicted and displaced, the best they can often hope for is accommodation on the periphery of the city (for example Blikkiesdorp) and consequent permanent exclusion from any opportunity. Even the very best state options (such as Pelican Park) are 25km or more from the CBD.”

Barry Smith, chairperson of the City Bowl Ratepayers’ Association, also objected to the sale of the Tafelberg site. “The tender process, while it may have been strictly legal, was flawed at least in its style, in that it ignored the province’s own regenerational and socio-economic objectives.”

Mr Smith urged province to reconsider the decision.

Jacky Poking, of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, also objected to the sale of Tafelberg to a private buyer, saying that no social housing had been made available near the city since 1994. “We strongly feel that this well-located land is a scarce resource and that it should be reserved to the benefit of all people, particularly to the poor.

“We strongly object to the sale of this land as it would be a wasted opportunity to right the wrongs of our past. The act of creating an integrated society 22 years after the fall of ‘official’ apartheid far outweighs the cost of the land that is going to be sold to a developer for their own personal profits, “ said Ms Poking.

The Upper Woodstock Residents’ Association also added their support, saying the sale of this public property to private development simply entrenches Cape Town’s structural exclusivity.

Ndifuna Ukwazi welcomed the inputs from the ratepayer bodies on the matter and said in a statement. “Often, ratepayers’ associations stand accused of acting in the interests of a small group of property owners in their area. In this instance, these four groups have demonstrated that ratepayers’ bodies can speak in support of the much wider interests of residents and workers in and around the inner city, and across the Cape Town metro as a whole.

“In light of this inner city ratepayer support, it is disappointing that the Sea Point, Fresnaye and Bantry Bay Ratepayers’ Association (SFB) remain a rogue voice against the campaign for affordable housing on the Tafelberg site. SFB deputy-chair David Polovin’s position that affordable housing development is not appropriate for the Tafelberg site has been called out for the structural racism which underpins it – a complaint currently sits with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for investigation.”

However, David Polivin, speaking in his personal capacity, said: “Linking Tafelberg to ‘racism’, as some activists have contrived to do, is intended to advance a pre-election political agenda, intimidate opponents, undermine democratic process and conceal the real issues. They are palpably false and morally reprehensible but should not be ignored because of their danger to influence even rational minds. We expect the decision-makers about Tafelberg to eschew it.”

He said that the Tafelberg matter had been muddied by politics but that was simply about the comparative suitability of the property for affordable housing. “The City and provincial authorities’ budgets for social upliftment and infrastructure spending are under tremendous pressure and only one of many elements is to provide new housing. Assuming the money were available however, there are, as a matter of fact, much better options than Tafelberg, where spending could secure housing and work opportunities for thousands of people as opposed to only a few hundred in Sea Point,” said Mr Polovin.

Meanwhile, the Sea Point, Fresnaye and Bantry Bay Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association has distanced themselves from Mr Polovin’s comments.

In a separate statement they said: “The Sea Point, Fresnaye and Bantry Bay Ratepayers’ Association (SFB), representing the interests of all the ratepayers in the aforementioned areas, are supportive of the corrective due process that has been followed, giving all citizens an opportunity to participate and voice an opinion in a regulated, participative manner. It is not our mandate to become embroiled in arguments involving national or provincial mandates and therefore respectfully await the final outcome of such process, and the final decision by the Western Cape government based on the public participation results.

“Together with all socially responsible South Africans, we, the SFB, support the needs and efforts of the City of Cape Town, the province and national government to address the spatial inequalities of the past and to develop integrated world-class cities in the new South Africa.”

Michael Mpofu, spokesperson for Western Cape premier Helen Zille, confirmed that the provincial government had received numerous submissions following the second round of a public participation process on the proposed sale of the Tafelberg site.

“This process is now closed. This second consultation process arose out of an agreement with interested parties who had not submitted comment during the first phase, to reopen the process. This was made an order of court. The time period for the representations closed on Thursday June 9 and members of the public have now had a second opportunity to present their submissions to us regarding the proposed sale of the site.”

He thanked the public for taking part and said the matter had received wide-spread public interest.

Mr Mpofu said the provincial government would now carefully consider all submissions that have been timeously received. “In terms of the current court order we have 30 working days within which to do this. Only after all the submissions have been carefully considered, will the provincial cabinet be called upon to make its decision in this regard Once that decision is made, it will be followed by an announcement on whether we intend to withdraw from the sale agreement or proceed with transfer.

“In this process, we remain committed to fulfilling our constitutional mandates, while balancing the various interests and priorities of society, including the creation of viable housing opportunities within stringent budget constraints,” said Mr Mpofu.