Red robot for housing on green

Brett Herron, former DA councillor and Mayco member for housing in the City of Cape Town. Picture Ian Landsberg /African News Agency (ANA)

The DA has come under fire from a former Mayco member of the City of Cape Town for blocking social housing in or near the inner city, making specific reference to the Green Point Bowling Green site, in addition to other sites.

In May this year Brett Herron, former mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, announced that a new affordable housing project was planned for the formerly unused bowling green site. He said the intention was to have a mixed-use development which would include affordable housing.

Last week, however, Mr Herron accused City officials of blocking the progress of the project, claiming there was a group within the DA that was opposed to social housing in or near the inner city.

Mr Herron resigned from the DA and as Mayco member earlier this month, saying the blocking of the inner city affordable housing development had been the final straw for him.

He accused Dave Bryant, ward councillor for Ward 115 (Mouille Point, Green Point, parts of Paarden Eiland, parts of Salt River, parts of Gardens, parts of Zonnebloem, Foreshore, the city centre, parts of Three Anchor Bay, Main Road and parts of Woodstock) of lobbying for the social housing project to be blocked.

The Green Point Bowling Green site had been at the centre of a long battle between the City and Reclaim the City, a movement campaigning for an inclusive spatial city and for access to decent, affordable housing, including in and near the inner city.

Mr Herron said he had fought many battles in the past two years just to get the DA’s manifesto implemented.”Their manifesto promise to integrate communities is a lie and I have been wasting my time trying to implement this while behind the scenes the insiders have been killing the projects off,” he said.

Responding to the allegations, Mr Bryant said plans for the site, which had been drawn up behind the scenes, were for a 170 000 square metre commercial development of which only 10 000 square metres (1.7%) are intended to be allocated for affordable housing. “Concerns were raised during a meeting to discuss existing leases on the site, specifically for the existing Pinnochio Creche which caters mainly for children from lower-income households in the area, many of whom are children of local domestic workers,” he said.

Mr Bryant said there was a suggestion at a caucus meeting a week before Mr Herron resigned that a process be started to dispose of these sites to facilitate the development but there was no indication that the plans had been shared with any of the role-players currently using the site, nor had there been any consultation with surrounding residents or civic bodies.

“The attacks on me from Mr Herron, including his consistent assertion that I am leading a ‘cabal’ within the council, are clearly intended to create a narrative that I am personally opposed to well-located affordable housing,” he said.

Responding on the City’s plans for the site and the delays in execution, the new mayoral member for transport and urban development, Felicity Purchase, said it is the City’s intention to develop the site in due course.

She said this was, however, dependent on the required statutory processes, among which public participation and the necessary approvals being granted by council and other spheres of government.

“The intention is to have a mixed-use development which will include affordable housing. The development will be informed by the outcome of the required statutory processes and the most feasible modelling to ensure a successful and sustainable development. The City will inform residents of public consultations, and participation processes well in advance,” she said.

Nick Budlende, a researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi, a non-profit organisation and legal clinic that is part of the Reclaim the City campaign, said the Green Point Bowling Green was just one of the many parcels of public land that are leased out by the City for uses that are exclusive, inefficient and unjust. He said these include empty fields, and underutilised bowling greens, golf courses and parking lots in almost every former whites-only areas.

“At a time when the nation is frustrated about the lack of land reform, it points to a fundamental failure to manage public land in the best interests of all residents in the city. In particular, the City is failing to meet its constitutional obligation to redistribute land. Instead, the land that should be at the heart of transformation is either sold or leased, well below market value for use by a minority of mostly wealthy residents,” he said.

“While we heard earlier this year that there were plans to develop the site in a mixed-use, mixed-income model, recent comments in the press by Brett Herron and a lack of visible action brings into question whether these plans will ever become a reality,” he said.