Land auctioned off

The last vacant piece of land owned by the City of Cape Town on the Foreshore has been sold to Growthpoint Properties for R86 million.

Site B Lower Long Street, which is currently being used for parking, was auctioned off last Wednesday, September 7.

David Stoll, the regional head of Growthpoint properties, said Site B is the “final vacant site available to create a brand new development and presents Growthpoint with the opportunity to develop an iconic building on the foreshore.”

Stoll added: “We have not finalised plans for the development yet, but envisage a building that would include offices with ground-floor retail. We would also consider a client-driven development for the site.

And while the City of Cape Town argued that the sale of the site would benefit the city as the money could be used for service delivery, the Reclaim the City campaign, which has been fighting for social housing close to the city centre, seems to think otherwise.

Julian Sendin, a researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi, which supports the Reclaim the City campaign, in a report about the sale, said the sale of the “underutilized public asset is unacceptable”.

He said a largely poor and working class majority live on the urban periphery, in very densely populated settlements, far from jobs, and with poor access to amenities and services.

“Well-located central areas, most of which were previously designated ‘whites only’ areas, are characterised by low densities coupled with a shortage of affordable housing options, despite excellent access to amenities, services and employment opportunities.”

In response to questions from the CapeTowner, deputy mayor Ian Neilson said the City’s Property Disposal Programme, among others, enables the City to re-invest to meet capital requirements /or to buy other land suitable for delivering the City’s service needs.

“This is such an example. The money that we get through a selected few high value projects is used for infrastructure investments such as roads, public transport interchanges, fire stations and amenities, to be able to deliver more services to the benefit of all the people of Cape Town.

“With the rapid rate of urbanisation, the City must diversify its sources of income to create a stable environment for all of its residents. Development of the site by the private sector will also grow the city economy, create more jobs and increase rates income.”

However, Mr Sendin said that well-located housing is also important.

“Well-located affordable housing, bringing workers closer to their place of work, is not only about welfare, it is a necessary public investment for the long-term economic sustainability of Cape Town.”

He said seven of the eight parcels of land which belonged to the Foreshore Coal Power Station have been used for prime office space: Investec, ENS and Protea Wharf buildings; luxury apartments at the Icon building and five-star hotel space for the Southern Sun Cullinan Hotel.

“None of these disposals have contributed to affordable housing development either on-site or in the vicinity.”

CBD ward councillor Dave Bryant said that the area that Site B is in is predominantly business, so it was inappropriate for a social housing project. “For the City, it made sense to sell the property as it is.”

He said the site is zoned for business and provides the opportunity for the new owners to build up to 11 storeys.

Mr Neilson said that Site B was not considered viable for social housing.

“It is a relatively small piece of land and is of an irregular shape. Thus, development costs would be high, requiring a high income stream for a developer to justify a development. It is thus not a suitable site to consider for inclusionary housing.”

He said that the city has plans for social housing projects in Woodstock, Salt River and around the Foreshore Freeway.

“There are more extensive land parcels,” he said.

Mr Neilson said Cape Town is following world trends and unlike many other South African cities, Cape Town central has few vacant open spaces or derelict buildings available for redevelopment.

“City-wide we have budgeted approximately R230 million in this financial year for social housing projects across the metro through our People’s Housing Process which is City-enabled but community-driven. Currently, over 1 000 hectares of City-owned land has been reserved for housing projects across the city.”

Mr Sendin said that at the controversial Western Cape Property Development Forum in 2015, Mayor Patricia de Lille announced that, in addition to Site B, another 12 high value properties would be released to the market. These properties include land in Century City, the Foreshore, CBD, Green Point, Clifton and the Strand Street Quarry in Bo-Kaap.

He said this must be considered alongside the four substantial properties that the provincial government aims to dispose of through its regeneration programme – the old Tafelberg school in Sea Point, Helen Bowden Nurses Home in Green Point, and Alfred Street Complex and Topyard in the CBD.

“If we turn the clock, we see that, of the 150 hectares of land that once made up District 6, only 40 hectares of publicly-owned vacant land remain.”