Social housing need

Most people who work in town cannot afford to live here.

Social housing in and around the CBD was top of the agenda at a recent breakfast meeting of the Central City Improvement District (CCID). Property owners were encouraged to tap into the business potential of providing social housing.

The chairman of the Western Cape Property Development Board, Deon van Zyl, said it was time for developers to engage more closely with affordable accommodation.

“People who make the city work are finding it difficult to live in the city. There are so many call centres, but what percentage of those call centre employees live in the city? What percentage of the people who make the city work – the shopkeepers, the administrators, the policemen and teachers – currently live in the city? People feel excluded from the economy.”

At last Wednesday’s meeting, themed “Creating a resilient Cape Town Central City”, a report presented by the CCID’s Carola Kolbitz, detailed residential statistics and trends in the CBD.

According to the research done by Ms Kolbitz and her team, there are about 7 000 people living in the CBD, and about 140 000 people working here.

Referring to current rentals in the central city, Ms Koblitz noted a slight decline in the cost of monthly rentals, with many more units available on the market for rent than there had been in December 2016.

“We currently have 230 units to rent in the CBD, versus 112 in December 2016. We’ve also seen a slight decline in average monthly rentals being asked – down from R15 081 to R14 000 for a one-bedroom unit and from R22 290 to R20 000 for a two-bedroom unit.

“There is quite a bit of choice available and we are assuming there is also room for negotiation.”

In her report, she said that R187 million in residential sales had been recorded since the beginning of the year with an average selling price of R2.3 million a unit.

However, she expressed concern about the reporting of property prices in the Central City: “Very often, unit or rand per square metre prices are quoted for the central city that actually take a far wider area into account. The central city is not the Atlantic Seaboard, the V&A Waterfront or indeed the rest of the City Bowl. The perception is that prices in the central city are much higher than they are. This should be taken into account when planning for future residential in the CBD.”

She said it was expected that with the number of people moving into the city, there would be a number of residential units being developed in the next 24 months. However, she only mentioned two – 16 on Bree and Onyx (the Nedbank building). She also highlighted that the Foreshore precinct, which had the largest tracts of land in the city centre, would be made available by the City of Cape Town through the Foreshore Freeway Project.

In response to queries from the CapeTowner, the mayco member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, said through the development of the Foreshore Freeway Precinct, the City intended to provide and expedite the provision of affordable housing opportunities through leveraging land and building holdings.

“In this specific example we have made six hectares of inner-city land available for development, through a competitive process, where bidders had to include affordable housing in their development proposals.”

He said the City was also finalising a strategy for the provision of affordable housing opportunities in Salt River and Woodstock. “I will announce the full package of plans on Tuesday July 18. The housing projects we are planning will provide a few thousand opportunities to lower-income households in those areas. The strategy is aimed at expediting the delivery of these opportunities and to provide residents in need with housing opportunities close to where they work and in close proximity to public transport.”

While the City was currently finalising development proposals for the Foreshore Freeway Project and would share them in a month’s time, Mr Herron said that the processes and approvals could take up to two years. “The City is now in the assessment and evaluation period. Once concluded, an announcement on the outcome of the process will be communicated to the public.”

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When he addressed the meeting, Mr van Zyl, highlighted the Tafelberg School “fiasco” which the Provincial Cabinet had decided to sell despite demands that the site be used for affordable social housing. He added that the mayor is on record saying that very little had been done to change the apartheid planning of the past and that the site was an opportunity lost.

The Tafelberg site was excluded from being considered for development of affordable housing, because it was not in the restructuring zone which would make it eligible for social housing grants from National Government. But Mr Herron said the City planned to lift restrictions put on certain areas for the development of social housing by declaring the entire Cape Town area a restructuring zone.

“On Tuesday March 28 the City of Cape Town informed the National Government and the Western Cape Government of our intention to declare Cape Town in its entirety as a restructuring zone so that we can provide affordable housing opportunities wherever suitable land is available,” he said.

“There are ample opportunities for affordable housing in many areas across the metro, and the development and availability of affordable rental accommodation in central areas of the city must play a key role in the future development of Cape Town. Currently, the City cannot get access to social housing grants from National Government unless suitable land is located within a restructuring zone,” Mr Herron explained.

While he did not answer questions on specific actions taken by the City regarding the sale of the Tafelberg property, he said that the City was committed to redressing and reversing the spatial legacy of apartheid planning. Reclaim the City chairperson Sheila Madikana, who is currently living at the Tafelberg site with other Reclaim the City members who staged a sit-in four months ago, said will continue to fight the sale of the Tafelberg site.

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Mr Van Zyl said that while there is a requirement from the City to make affordable housing available, developers needed think creatively.

He said currently, there were only five social housing companies registered with the city. “If housing is such a crisis, why are there not 20 or 390? I find the answer is bureaucracy and the difficulty in actually developing social housing.”

Speaking to the property owners, he said: “You have the opportunity of providing a lifestyle. Each developer here will either be a commercial specialist or a residential specialist, or a retail specialist, but if we combine all of that into a single development, if we start thinking about mixed use, what are the additional opportunities that we can access or gain through?”

“The City CBD is a success story, but we are a microcosm in a bigger city – we are beginning to compete with Century City and Tiger Valleys and Claremont CBD, among others. What differentiates the city CBD? There are many opportunities out there and it’s more affordable. People can’t afford to live here.”

Emily Whitefield, the CEO of Student at Home, which offers affordable accommodation in the mixed-use building in Adderley Street, said affordable housing was certainly a necessity – and a business opportunity.

“The age old argument is whether the social housing is an integrated part of new developments or separate. In London and other major cities both happen. There are specialist funds who invest in and support social housing, mostly non-profit and they have been very effective.”Clear plans need to be formulated for the next 10 to 20 years setting targets for new homes in the city and incentives put in place to help make it happen. The population of the slightly enlarged CBD should be at least 50 000 within 10 years and 1 000 000 or more by 15 to 20 years time.”