Let's talk about affordable housing in Cape Town
Inside Government is a newsletter written by Premier Helen Zille.
Inside Government: Let's talk about affordable housing in Cape Town
An Afrikaans word has been appearing in English newspaper headlines a lot recently. It is Tafelberg, which most South Africans will know means Table Mountain.
But, the newspaper headlines are not referring to one of the seven natural wonders of the world. They refer to an old school, in Sea Point, where Ellerslie Girls High School once was.
The site has been in the newspapers because of the provincial government’s decision to sell the building and land for revamping as an independent school.
A social justice organisation, Ndifuna Ukwazi (Xhosa for “I want to know”), through its legal centre, believes the site should be used for affordable housing rather than a school. They believe people were not given a fair and adequate opportunity to comment during the advertised period for public consultation. This was raised for the first time in their court papers seeking an interdict against the sale.
We are committed to ensuring that anyone who seeks an opportunity for comment should be able to have it taken into account, before the provincial government makes a rational decision about how best to utilise its assets to the best advantage of citizens.
Last week, our government presented Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre and other applicants, with a draft order in the interdict they have launched against the proposed sale of the site.
The order proposes that we reopen the public consultation process over the sale of the land.
This effectively means we will publish fresh notices calling for comment on the proposed sale, as required in terms of the Western Cape Land Administration Act, and its regulations.
The Provincial Cabinet will then consider all submissions received following the fresh notices, and determine whether to proceed or withdraw from the sale agreement.
Our government remains bound by our Constitutional mandate of providing access to adequate housing, within available resources and the constitutional and legislative environment.
To fulfil this role, we work very closely with the other levels of government - national and local - to meet our housing targets.
The province exceeded its annual targets last year, delivering nearly 18 000 housing opportunities.
We spent close to 100% of the nearly R2 billion allocated for housing in the last financial year, through the Human Settlement Development Grant. And we did so with a clean audit for our Human Settlements Department.
While clean audits are not the only (or even the most important) indicators of successful delivery, they remain a good indicator of prudent financial management, to stretch the delivery rand as far as possible.
We understand the challenges of overcoming the legacy of Apartheid spatial planning in Cape Town. It is a priority for us to redress this, as it should be for any South African city.
It is probably an under-reported fact that Cape Town is the metro where the country’s largest, and most ambitious urban housing project is underway.
Prioritised as a Game Changer programme, the province aims to build over 3000 residential units on the former Conradie hospital site in one of the inner city’s nodal, residential suburbs.
Affordable housing will be grant-funded, consisting of Social Housing, the Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP), and rent-to-buy options.
We are cross-subsidising it, making it affordable for Cape Town residents, and government. Residential units will be available to the open market, as will 10 000 m² of retail space. There will also be some 14 500 m² of commercial space, in order to stimulate entrepreneurs wishing to start small businesses in the area.
Schools and safe, public green spaces will complete this new, inclusive neighbourhood.
We call this the “Better Living” model, a multi-billion rand investment that will stimulate economic growth and jobs – we estimate that at least one job will be created for every million Rand spent on this development.
If this cross-subsidisation model proves viable, it will be the start of a process of many similar well-located urban nodes. That is the vision.
An Expression of Interest (EOI) is out now for the site, seeking input from prospective bidders, including social housing institutions, financiers, investors and property developers.
This is an opportunity for comment, much like the one we hope Ndifuna Ukwazi will take on the Tafelberg site, once the Western Cape High Court today confirms the re-opening of the public consultation process.
I sincerely hope it is a constructive and meaningful engagement.
As a government, we have a responsibility to consider those comments in carrying out our responsibility of balancing the many competing priorities in society, within stringent budget constraints and an ailing economy (the ‘Zuma deficit’).
Sometimes we have to take difficult decisions about how best to deliver on all our constitutional mandates, which includes creating opportunities for housing (but includes many other equally important imperatives). In the course of our deliberations we will need to once again take all of this into account.
We look forward to the input that Ndifuna Ukwazi’s clients, as well as any other member of the public, can make in this respect.
Spokesperson for Premier Helen Zille
Tel: 021 483 4584
Cell: 071 564 5427