The Helen Bowden Nurses home in the Somerset precinct. File Picture Jeffrey Abrahams/
Cape Town - The Municipal Planning Tribunal has given the green light to the development of social housing apartments in the Waterfront area, but there is concern among residents.

“There is a huge misconception about what social housing is among residents and after the decision was made they became quite worried about the move,” said Green Point Ratepayers Association chairperson Jenny McQueen.

She said residents were very disappointed to hear that a decision had been made without their being notified of the meeting.

“We never knew anything about the meeting. What residents would have wanted is to be included in the discussion because they are the very people who would be affected by this decision,” said McQueen.

She said the organisation had continued to support affordable housing.

“I think what some residents do not understand is that we have an incredibly huge shortage of houses and there are people who need homes to live in. And I think the fear residents have is the behaviour of some residents living in social housing,” she said.

This week, the tribunal approved a provincial government application to consolidate and rezone the Somerset Precinct in the Waterfront.

This will allow hundreds of social housing apartments to be built on almost 11 hectares (the size of about 11 soccer fields) on some of the most valuable public land in the city. The tribunal asked the province to maximise the number of social housing apartments when it submitted its plans. The move was hailed as a victory for the poor.

Reclaim the City spokesperson Bevil Lucas said: “The misconception emerges from how the concept is communicated to people who would need accommodation and would in most cases be desperate and vulnerable. The social housing companies together with the City don’t do enough prior education with potential beneficiaries.”

The City has announced that it will, in the coming weeks, engage with a wide range of stakeholders in pursuit of solutions that will assist them in meeting the growing and urgent demand for affordable housing in Cape Town. A concept document on inclusive housing will form the basis of these discussions.

Mayco member for transport and urban development Brett Herron said it was a well-known fact that the supply of housing within the affordable segment of the market was not meeting the current demand.

“Property values have increased dramatically over the past decade, and lower- and middle-income households find it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to find well-located properties that they can afford to buy or rent.”

He said the current challenge the city faced was that about 354 000 people were registered on the City’s housing database, meaning these households relied on some form of state assistance for their housing needs.

The majority of these households, however, earn too much to qualify for a state-subsidised house, but too little to buy or rent well-located property from the private property market in Cape Town.

“The City cannot address the demand for affordable housing on its own. We need the private sector to assist us. The purpose of the imminent inclusionary housing policy is, therefore, also to prompt developers from the private sector to cater for the growing affordable housing market,” Herron said.

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Cape Argus