Cape Town - Housing subsidies and other government assistance has not kept pace with the drastically rising cost of living in South Africa.
Cape Town is the most expensive city in the country to rent or own property, the City of Cape Town said, with lower to middle income families finding it much harder to afford a home than anywhere else in South Africa.
In light of this, the City was constantly assessing how it could make available city-owned land for redevelopment to provide social housing.
New developments in the Parow area could provide some 6 000 rental units for families with a household income of up to R15 000 a month.
"The qualifying criteria for social housing is set by the National Government, not the City of Cape Town," the City of Cape Town's mayoral committee member for transport and urban development Brett Herron said.
"Until recently, only households with a monthly income of between R3 500 and R7 500 qualified for social housing (that is affordable rental) opportunities. The previous Minister of Human Settlements, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, amended the threshold, shortly before the cabinet reshuffle, to a monthly household income of between R1 500 and R15 000, meaning more beneficiaries can now be assisted," Herron said.
But is this threshhold fair? A family with a household income of R16 000 would find it difficult to impossible to purchase property in Cape Town.
"I agree that the National Government, through the Department of Human Settlements, should consider different thresholds for metros across South Africa," Herron said.
"The property market in Cape Town is the most expensive in South Africa, thus, lower and even middle income households living and working here will find it much harder to afford a home – be it to buy or for rental, than lower and middle income households who are living in other metros such as Mangaung, or Nelson Mandela Bay, and Ethekwini," Herron said.
"I also want to point out that, while urbanisation and demand for housing is rising and construction costs have been increasing, the housing subsidy from the National Government has not kept pace.
"Also, household incomes have risen, as has the cost of living and the cost of housing, but the income bands to qualify for assistance have remained static, meaning that many families who are indigent or in need of assistance do not qualify in terms of nationally prescribed household income bands. This is an unintended cruel outcome of a rigid housing programme and serves to exacerbate the housing crisis.
"We welcome the amended household income bands for social housing recently which will partially address the problem of household income thresholds, but as stated above, we need income bands that are applicable to each metro’s unique situation and property market," he said.
Herron said the City was committed to reversing the legacy of apartheid spatial planning and the "transformation of Cape Town’s spatial form; to promoting transit-oriented development; and to providing affordable housing on well-located land close to public transport and job opportunities".
In this light, Herron said:
"a) We have a team of officials tasked with identifying land for housing projects and the evaluation of land for future housing projects. We are doing so on a continuous basis.
b) We are assessing City-owned land to determine whether some of these properties could be developed for housing opportunities – be it for affordable, social housing, or State-subsidised Breaking New Ground housing. The latest proposed Parow Precinct Development is a clear example of the effort we are making in expediting the provision of social housing opportunities on well-located land.
c) We are also identifying suitable buildings within CBDs across Cape Town that can be developed or converted into affordable rental accommodation."
He concluded: "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."