After months of pressure from housing activists, the City of Cape Town has announced that it has identified ten sites that will be developed in the Cape Town central business district for affordable housing.
Brett Herron, the City mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said in a speech on Tuesday that the City had identified these sites as part of an effort to reverse apartheid spatial planning in Cape Town. Apartheid spatial planning, Herron said, is characterised by people being forced to live far away from economic opportunities in the city centre.
“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,” Herron said.
The ten sites identified by the City are located in the city centre and Woodstock and Salt River, which are a short drive from the Cape Town CBD.
Three of the ten sites have already been earmarked for social housing.
Two developments will be built in Woodstock, where the City has promised that they will provide “approximately 240 social housing residential units” for rent to households who earn an income of less than R15 000. Families who qualify for these units will have to be on the city’s housing database and be willing to pay rent, Herron said.
The third development will be in Salt River in Albert Road where more than 10 families currently face eviction. The 476 units that the City will develop will be a mixture of social housing rental stock for families earning less than R15 000 per month and GAP housing (rental units for households that earn between R3 500 and R20 000 per month).
Similarly to the Woodstock developments, people will have to be on the City’s housing database and pay rent in order to qualify for the Salt River units. The Salt River development will also include retail and office space, Herron said, to ensure that it retains financial stability.
“Providing affordable housing opportunities closer to where people work or close to public transport is non-negotiable. In this way, we will create a more integrated and inclusive city where residents have equal access to opportunities,” Herron said.
“As I have stated, where people live matters.”
“A 180-degree change” for an inclusive city
The City of Cape Town has been heavily criticised by housing activists in pressure group Reclaim the City for failing on its commitment to provide housing in the inner city for the poor. The group, which has been praised for the City’s latest announcement, has welcomed Herron’s statement as a “win for affordable housing”.
“This is a victory for people who are being priced out of well-located areas or facing eviction. It shows the power that residents have when they organise together to resist injustice and demand change,” Reclaim the City said in a statement.
The group also said that Herron should be “commended” for the “showing the leadership this city requires”. Reclaim the City has occupied buildings in Woodstock and Granger Bay, near the touristy V&A Waterfront, to apply pressure on the City to develop social housing.
Activists in the organisation have faced eviction from Woodstock, Salt River and Sea Point where rental prices have become exceedingly high in recent years. Last year members of Reclaim the City brought a court action agains the City of Cape Town for offering housing in a “relocation camp” to Salt River evictees 30km away from the inner city in Wolwerivier.
The group says that while it praises the latest efforts made by the City, it will remain cautious until the City shows that it will adhere to the time frames and plans it has outlined for transitional and social housing developments.
“We will resist to stay in our homes until we see bricks, front doors and keys!,” Reclaim the City said.
The City also announced that five additional parcels of land had been identified in Salt River and Woodstock for affordable housing, and that similar efforts were being made to locate sites for low-cost housing in the northern suburbs of Belville and Goodwood, which each have their own CBDs. Sites in smaller southern suburbs like Wynberg and Claremont are also being identified for housing opportunities, as well as Parow, Mitchell’s Plain, Plumstead and Khayelitsha.
“The manner in which we are approaching these developments represents a 180-degree change in how we will confront the urgent demand for affordable and inclusionary housing in future,” Herron said.
Five of the ten sites the City identified in the CBD, Woodstock and Salt River will be released to the private sector who will become partners with the City in social housing development. The prospectus for these five developments will to the public in two months.
Herron said that the City is also committed to providing temporary housing for evictees in the Woodstock area, which hopes the city council will approve in a meeting on July 27.
Later this month, Herron is also expected to publish an inclusive housing policy which will regulate the role of the private sector as partners in the development of affordable housing. Companies who are approved by the Social Housing Regulatory Authority and interested in partnering with the City have been asked to register on the City’s social housing database by the end of July.