City housing plan gets green light

Full council approved the City of Cape Towns first inner-city transitional housing project last week. Brett Herron, the mayoral committee member for transport and urban development calls for the vote. Sitting on his left is Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committeemember for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy.

The City of Cape Town’s inner city housing plan was approved in full Council last week, and the first project is set to take place in Salt River.

The green light, however, was only given after a number of concerns were raised by opposition parties.

Brett Herron, the City’s mayoral committee member transport and urban development, introduced the plan after months of pressure from housing activists who were calling for affordable housing close to the city centre.

Mr Herron said: “Decent housing is a key marker to how we view progress. It’s not just about houses but where people live, that matters. This commitment is not just words in a party manifesto or a speech. We have reconstructed the City’s administration around this commitment.”

The topic of affordable housing has been heavily debated recently, with many residents feeling the effects of gentrification and the increase of rates in Cape Town. There are several groups fighting eviction from Woodstock as well as people facing eviction from inner city suburbs on a regular basis.

Mr Herron added: “This is a strategic change in line with the City’s development framework. We will commence with our very first inner-city transitional housing once council has approved this proposal.”

He said that this site would be located in Salt River, less than 5km from the Cape Town CBD and that it would be the first transitional housing project in the Cape Town inner city.

“Part of the commitment is to provide those who are placed in emergency situations with affordable temporary housing as close as possible to where they are working. The development will provide temporary housing while opportunities for permanent housing are procured.”

ANC councillor Wela Dlulane, welcomed the initiative but questioned the public participation and said they could not vote on a plan that was incomplete.

“The people were not consulted on these proposals. You can’t move the cart before the horse and consult people after we have approved this proposal. We need to know how many people are going to be moved and who’s going to benefit in order for us to approve this. We can’t approve incomplete research.”

Anwar Adams, of the Democratic Independent Party, said the project was “treating a symptom” and not the cause of the problem.

“We are looking at a symptom of what has been created through these special rating areas. We have an oversupply of super rich apartments which does not cater to the need of the area at all.

“Yet we are now trying to reduce this to bringing a transitional community and they are still not going to be able to afford to live in the area because of the increase in rates.”

The EFF’s Xego Melikhaya said they welcomed the proposal but were concerned it was geared towards profit-making.

“We want those people that are staying in shacks to be prioritised. As the EFF we are proposing that people who are in Salt River should also remain in Salt River.”

In her speech during the full council meeting, Mayor Patricia de Lille, called the project “very exciting”.

She said the estimated cost was R11.1 million to develop the transitional housing project which would include access control to ensure the safety of those living there.

“Part of the undertaking is to, within our means, provide those who are facing emergency situations with safe, decent, and affordable temporary housing as close as possible to public transport. We are also investigating the feasibility of developing further inclusionary housing projects in other parts of the city,” Ms De Lille said.

Mr Herron added that there were more transitional housing projects in the pipeline, both in Salt River as well as other parts of Cape Town.

He said City-owned sites had been identified in the inner-city, Salt River and Woodstock to be used for affordable housing opportunities.

“We want these developments to be integrated into the surrounding area, that does not distinguish between the differences in income. We want these developments to offer social housing combined with market-related housing.”

Last week, activist organisation Reclaim the City, welcomed the announcement of the plan, saying that it was a step in the right direction. However, they said, they remained cautious, having heard many promises before only to be disappointed.