STATEMENT BY THE CITY’S MAYORAL COMMITTEE MEMBER FOR TRANSPORT AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, COUNCILLOR BRETT HERRON
Earlier today I received a memorandum from the Social Justice Coalition, Reclaim the City, the District Six Working Committee, and others.
I have had numerous engagements with those who are fighting for better housing and the redress of our historical spatial injustice. My most recent engagement was with Reclaim the City about two weeks ago when they arrived at my home at 05:00 in the morning to protest, and to engage with me on housing matters. I sat down with them in my street and we spoke. I remain willing to engage with any organisation in an effort to address what I regard as one of our greatest challenges – our housing deficit.
During that engagement I reiterated our commitment to a more equitable geographical distribution of emergency or transitional housing options; using well-located City-owned land to address the housing deficit; to improve the locality of housing opportunities; and to address the policy vacuum on inclusionary housing so that our planning regime is more predictable and provides clarity on the role of the private developer to contribute to the deficit of affordable housing.
I repeated what I have said before: that where people live matters.The restitution and redevelopment of District Six is the responsibility of the National Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs who have taken on the role of the developer. That said, the restitution of this area, where thousands of residents were forcefully removed during apartheid, has immense potential to spatially transform our city.
It is quite shameful that 24 years after democracy, and on the day we celebrate the rights enshrined in our Constitution, those forcefully evicted from their homes by the apartheid government are still waiting for justice and for their promised restitution. I accept their grievance as legitimate and I stand in solidarity with their frustration. I will approach the new Minister of Rural Development and Land Affairs to look into the District Six process as a matter of urgency.
On Monday morning, 19 March 2018, I was present at a ceremonial handing over of land to Rondebosch East claimants. I was deeply moved by what I saw and heard.
At that ceremony I stated that land restitution is a powerful reminder of our brutal and cruel apartheid history, and the injustices suffered by so many people. At a time when land ownership is prominent in our country’s conversation it is shocking and true that the restitution process is taking far too long in this country. It is unacceptable that, in many cases, land restitution drags on for decades and that some of the claimants die before they can return to the land they were forcefully removed from.
In addition, I am fully aware of the fears and frustrations of those in need of housing opportunities in Cape Town – be it for transitional housing in times of emergencies and private evictions, for affordable rental units, or state-subsidised Breaking New Ground houses.
The stark reality is that it will take time to address this need by adding additional housing opportunities that are geographically better located to assist residents in emergencies, and those in need of affordable housing.
I have stated before that the dire need for housing and security of tenure, including for those who are in informal settlements, count among the biggest challenges that South Africa is facing at this moment. Furthermore, this challenge cannot be addressed simply by focussing on the numbers of housing units delivered without also considering where we are providing public housing. We must ensure that public housing, no matter its typology in terms of the national housing policy, is better located. I reiterate that where people live matters.
The irony is that while we rely on, and are constrained by, the National Government’s policy decisions and funding, those who make these decisions are often far removed from the coalface of service delivery and the harsh realities of poverty and displacement.
Local governments bear the brunt of the pressure as more people are moving to cities in search of better lives and job opportunities. Cape Town is no exception.
We have 343 537 residents registered on our database who are in need of and qualify for a housing opportunity. We also project that at least 650 000 families will qualify for and require some form of state-subsidised housing in Cape Town over the next 20 years.
This is a massive challenge and one that will not be resolved overnight. Neither will it be resolved by government alone – we need civil society organisations like the Social Justice Coalition, the private sector, and our residents to work with us.
Workers and the poor are evicted and displaced all over the city, not in Cape Town’s inner city alone.
Those on the City’s housing database are from areas all over Cape Town – they are patiently awaiting their turn for a house in Khayelitsha, Philippi, Gugulethu, Nomzamo, Langa, Ottery, Hangberg, Bonteheuwel, Belhar, Macassar, Imizamo Yethu, Atlantis, Masiphumelele – the list goes on and on. Some of these beneficiaries are 60 years and older, others have dependents with special needs.
The purpose of the City’s housing database is to ensure that housing opportunities are made available in a fair, transparent, systematic, and equitable manner, and in accordance with our housing allocation policy to ensure that no one jumps the queue. We cannot allow a situation where certain residents get access to housing opportunities at the cost of those who have been waiting for years for the very same housing opportunity.
All of us must respect the City’s housing database and housing allocation policy, and acknowledge its role as the foundation of a fair and equitable housing allocation regime.
In the meantime, we are working as hard and as fast as we can within the regulatory constraints, and we are doing the most with the funds that we are receiving from National Government.
I want to reiterate that everything that we are doing is geared towards reversing the legacy of apartheid spatial planning and the transformation of Cape Town’s spatial form; to promoting transit-oriented development; and to providing affordable housing on well-located land close to public transport and job opportunities.
We have a team of officials tasked with identifying land for housing projects and the evaluation of land for future housing projects. We are doing so on a continuous basis.
We are assessing City-owned land to determine whether some of these properties could be developed for housing opportunities – be it for transitional, affordable, social housing, or state-subsidised Breaking New Ground housing. We are also identifying suitable buildings within CBDs across Cape Town that can be developed or converted into affordable rental accommodation.
The development and availability of affordable rental accommodation in central areas of the city must play a key role in the future development of Cape Town.
On this point, I want to mention that the prospectus and request for proposals for the development of affordable and inclusionary housing opportunities on five well-located City-owned sites in Salt River, Woodstock, and the inner city was issued on 29 September 2017. We have commenced with the preliminary screening of the proposals received and, as promised, will share those that are responsive with the public in the next two months.
This inner-city affordable housing precinct is not the first and last of it. This precinct approach will be replicated in other parts of the city using well located City-owned land, and land and buildings we will acquire, and we will soon be in a position to call for proposals for the next precinct.
In addition, in 2017 we initiated a request for proposal process to interested social housing institutions (SHIs) to partner with the City in the development of the Salt River Market site for the provision of social housing. The site is approximately 1,4 hectares. Communicare’s submission of an affordable housing, high density development was the preferred submission.
The proposed development will provide approximately 850 residential rental units (inclusive of the market-related and social housing units) and about 2 000 m² of retail space. Thus, the Salt River Market site in Albert Road will be a mixed-use development with a combination of affordable housing opportunities – from social housing (subsidised rental units for households with a monthly income of less than R15 000) to GAP rental housing (for households with a monthly income of between R3 500 and R20 000) to retail and office space.
Information about the proposed development will be exhibited in the vicinity of the site so that the residents can see what is being proposed and to enable them to comment and make proposals.
In addition, two erven along Pine Road and six erven along Dillon Lane were allocated to the Social Housing Company (SOHCO), a registered SHI, in July last year for the development of social housing opportunities. The statutory land-use applications, among which building plans and rezoning applications, are under way and we expect construction to commence once these processes have been finalised. This development is likely to provide about 250 social housing units in Woodstock.
The Salt River Market site and the erven along Pine Road and Dillon Lane are well-located City-owned land. These sites are less than 5 km away from the Cape Town CBD. Apart from the proximity to the CBD, the sites are also within walking distance of public transport, social amenities, schools, hospitals, and job opportunities.
Furthermore, the sites are located within the Voortrekker Road Corridor Integration Zone (VRCIZ) – one of three integration zones where the City will, during the current term of office, spend the bulk of its capital budget on infrastructure aimed to transform Cape Town’s spatial reality.
The significance of the location of the sites resonates when one bears in mind that the VRCIZ will link the Bellville, Maitland, Parow, Goodwood and Salt River CBDs with the Cape Town CBD via Voortrekker Road. By prioritising dense, transit-oriented growth and development in this integration zone, the City seeks to create more inclusive communities with access to improved services, job opportunities, and affordable housing and public transport.
We also want to develop more transitional housing sites across the city in the long term so that we can assist those residents who are facing emergency situations with temporary accommodation while they are looking for permanent housing.