Cape Town promise of 10,000 inner-city houses falls to 2,000
In 25 years of democracy, no social housing has been built in the inner CBD area of Cape Town, admitted lawyers for the Western Cape provincial government recently. What is being done to improve the situation? A plan to build 10,000 housing opportunities within the Cape Town CBD area was dropped to 2,000 with no explanation — raising more questions than answers.
During the Tafelberg court case in November 2019, it was revealed that the Western Cape government had not built any form of social housing within the Cape Town CBD. Now there are plans to build 2,000 housing opportunities, a fraction of the 10,000 originally planned.
In March 2019, former MEC for Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela announced during his budget speech that 10,000 housing opportunities would be built within inner-city areas including the Cape Town CBD, Oranjezicht, Bo-Kaap and Tamboerskloof.
Read in Daily Maverick: There will be affordable inner-city housing in Cape Town, but only when the plans are finalised
Shortly after this, Madikizela was shifted to MEC for Transport and Public Works, following the 2019 national and provincial elections. But a vocal critic of the DA — former member Brett Herron, now GOOD Member of the Provincial Parliament, told Daily Maverick this was just a promise during the election season.
“His sudden promise of 10,000 new housing opportunities in the city centre and surrounds was just an eve-of-elections promise,” said Heron. “He said this for electioneering purposes without any real commitment to implementing this. There are no real plans or projects to build these social housing units.”
By October, during a briefing by the Standing Committee on Human Settlements in the provincial legislature, on the department’s Annual Report, this figure had been dropped to 2,000. New MEC Tertius Simmers told Daily Maverick that 2,000 housing opportunities would be developed on seven sites “which we are currently pursuing for acquisition” even though in October’s briefing, Simmers confirmed to Herron that a process was underway to embark on an inter-departmental transfer since the properties were owned by the Department of Transport and Public Works — now under the helm of Madikizela.
While Simmers did not explain why there had been such a drastic drop in the number of planned opportunities, he did, however, state that “in parallel, we are undertaking a comprehensive land audit process to identify and investigate the suitability of other available land to be pursued for affordable housing development.”
Meanwhile, Herron has indicated that there are properties owned by the provincial government that can be immediately used for social housing. These, according to Herron, include “City Bowl Block” — a site purchased in 2008 at Loop, Dorp and Bree streets, “Artscape Precinct” — where a proposed mixed-use development was once identified for the provincial government properties and “Government Garage Precinct” — which is a cluster of properties along Roeland and Buitenkant streets.
Housing or social housing within the inner city has been an important topic within Cape Town, particularly as a result of the Tafelberg case. Tafelberg, situated on prime provincially owned property in Sea Point, a mere 3km from the Cape Town Civic Centre, was sold to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School in 2017 despite the province’s own feasibility studies indicating social housing could be built on the site.
Under then-premier Helen Zille, the provincial government wanted to sell the property for additional income, which was later revealed to be for the purchase of a building for the Western Cape Education Department.
Simmers told Daily Maverick:
“Yes, development has not occurred in the Cape Town CBD. The province considers itself to have more than one ‘CBD’ — development is happening around transport hubs, such as Retreat, Belhar and Bellville… the department invests energy into creating a supportive environment which attracts and encourage partnerships, ultimately unlocking the potential embedded and thus enabling that Government and its partners pool resources and work toward a common affordable housing purpose.
“This is particularly relevant in the inner city, where land costs are exorbitant and higher density development is a requirement, which also significantly increases development costs.”
The MEC told Daily Maverick a project team focusing on inner-city development has been appointed. DM
Read the Tafelberg court proceedings in Daily Maverick:
Day 3: Sea Point housing hot potato.
Day 4: Published from GroundUp: Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School promises some affordable housing on Tafelberg site.