Activists challenge City’s housing decisions

An aerial view of the land aroundFood Lovers Market (Fruit and Veg City) in Roeland Street, which had been allocated for an affordable housing project.

Social housing activists, Reclaim the City, have slammed the City of Cape Town for cancelling several affordable housing projects on prime land, including one in Roeland Street.

Reclaim the City issued a statement saying the City, after delaying for two years on the projects, cancelled the request for proposals to develop affordable housing on five parcels of public land in the inner city, “which combined would have delivered thousands of new homes”.

“We are angry and frustrated. We are in the midst of the most profound housing crisis. Poor and working-class people are being evicted or displaced every week,” the statement said.

They called the cancellation “a concerted attack on the shared vision of an inclusive city” and said the latest cancellation was part of a series of decisions by the City which has stalled or crippled affordable housing projects on prime land.

“The social housing projects at Salt River Market and Pine Road are still not secured. The affordable housing committed on the Green Point Bowling Green was quietly dropped and the current club leases renewed,” the statement said.

“Why were these projects cancelled? Why didn’t the City communicate this to residents? Is this new mayoral committee committed to advancing spatial justice or not?” the statement demanded to know.

Mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi responded by saying that three of the planned projects were going ahead and the others had been cancelled so that a different process could be followed for their disposal.

According to Mr Booi, the decision to cancel the projects at the public open space next to Woodstock Hospital, Food Lovers’ Market (Fruit and Veg City) in Roeland Street, New Market Street and the Pickwick Street social housing site was made by the Supply Chain Management Bid Adjudication Committee at a meeting on Monday July 29.

The agenda and minutes of this meeting are absent from the City’s website and when the CapeTowner asked for a copy of the minutes, the City’s response was to resend a press statement attributed to Mr Booi which had been sent to media before.

According to the statement, the Request for Proposals (RFP) was cancelled “to ensure that they complied with the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) and the Municipal Asset Transfer Regulations (MATR)”.

It also said that the Salt River Market and the Pine Road projects were progressing, while the Pickwick Street Transitional Housing Project had been completed in May.

“The City of Cape Town’s Human Settlements Directorate remains committed to providing hundreds of affordable and social housing opportunities around the city centre on sites such as at the Salt River Market, Woodstock Hospital and Pine Road, as well as other areas across the city,” Mr Booi said.

He said that to date the rezoning application for the Salt River Market site was approved by the Municipal Planning Tribunal.

“The appeals period expired
in June 2019 and an appeals
report will be referred to the Mayor’s Appeal Committee for a decision.”

At the Pine Road site, residents who were living in the informal settlement were moved to the Pickwick transitional housing site in May.

“Which avails the land in Pine Road to provide approximately 240 social housing (affordable rental) opportunities,” he said.

Regarding the cancellations he said: “Each of these sites has its own complexities and will trigger different land use application processes and therefore it is vital that due processes are followed.”

He said the RFP for each would be repackaged.

“The new RFP will include the updated information pertaining to current valuations of the land to ensure a more efficient process when considering the disposal of the parcels of land for social housing opportunities,” he said.

Mr Booi added that there were no “quick fixes” for housing “on well-located land, close to employment opportunities and economic nodes”.

“We want to assure residents that we remain committed to providing affordable housing opportunities near the city centre, but that we are also committed to following due process in so doing,” he said.

He continued: “We will continue to assess City-owned land, including in and near the Cape Town CBD, to determine whether some of these properties could be developed for housing opportunities.”