* This story has been updated
CAPE TOWN - After much political mudslinging, the Cape Town council on Tuesday approved the rezoning of land at the Salt River Market for mixed-use development that will include 216 low-cost housing units, mayor Dan Plato said.
"The approved rezoning application for the Salt River Market site will provide for 723 residential units, of which 216 will be social housing opportunities for qualifying beneficiaries, as well as business premises and informal trading and 119 parking bays," Plato said in a statement.
"The rezoning consolidates 13 erven into a larger piece of land, which enables development. The developer now has a five-year period to act on the right," he added.
He said the decision was final and allowed for the construction of buildings between 25 and 38 metres high as well as a carriage way to allow for street parking on Bromwell Street, which runs parallel to the railway line in Salt River.
The low cost housing will be earmarked for people earning between R3,500 and R20,000 per month, Plato said, to those people who would not qualify for a housing loan from a bank.
The city council was severely criticised after it decided in October last year to defer a decision to sell the land to housing development company Communicare at less than 10 percent of its commercial value.
The harshest words came from former mayoral committee member for transport and urban development Brett Heron, a key ally of ousted mayor Patricia de Lille, who said it demonstrated the city's resistance to integrated housing in Cape Town.
Heron, secretary-general for GOOD and a member of the Western Cape legislature on Tuesday welcomed the rezoning as a "a small step" in the right direction.
The city council recently revoked the request for proposals for social housing on five other sites on the fringes of the city, saying these would be reissued at a later date in proper compliance with legislation. The RFPs were issued on Heron's watch and have been deemed flawed by the city's current executive.
Heron said the five sites would have provided 4 000 more social housing units at a time that the city was facing a deficit across all income groups.
"While I truly do welcome the rezoning it is patently obvious that the cancellation of the five sites and the loss of 4 000 social housing units, in addition to other housing including GAP, cannot be mitigated with tokenism.
"We need a government that is looking to partner with the private sector and build, build and build," Heron said.
Plato in an op-ed piece published in the Sunday Argus last weekend took aim at "bad politicians" trying to score cheap political points and said the city stood firm in its commitment to creating affordable housing opportunities close to the CBD.
On Tuesday, he said this included the redevelopment of the land in Upper Woodstock, that housed the Woodstock Day Hospital prior to its closure. The building is currently illegally occupied by more than 700 people.
Plato said the illegal occupation was "doing more harm than good" as it rendered it unavailable for redevelopment. He said a team of construction consultants was busy with a feasibility analysis for the site.
"Earlier in the year the city obtained an interdict against the further illegal occupation of the Woodstock Hospital site. Any illegal actions on this site or other sites must be viewed as sabotage of the city’s inclusive housing process which is under way."
African News Agency (ANA)