Artist's impression of the new development. CREDIT: FWJK website
An application by one of the biggest developers in the Western Cape to depart from land use rights is set to test - for the first time - the City of Cape Town’s ability to place an obligation on developers to provide affordable homes for people on lower incomes.

Real estate developer FWJK has requested a departure from land use rights for its building, known as Zero2One Tower, which will be the tallest in the Cape Town CBD.

The development, at the corner of Strand and Adderley streets, will consist of 47 storeys with 624 apartments, three levels of retail stores and nine storeys of parking.

But because the size of the development is 50% bigger than what zoning permits, FWJK requested a significant departure from land use rights which specify how land may be used.

The rights, worth hundreds of millions of rand, also act, among other things, as regulation to protect the public’s interests from inappropriate development, which includes buildings that only cater for the wealthy.

The city received four objections and one letter of support to the developer’s application.

Mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, said the municipal planning tribunal had not taken a decision yet on the application as it was still at an early stage, with FWJK responding to the objections.

But he added that the city assessed development applications in terms of the provisions of the planning by-law and other related national legislation.

It is this legislated process that one of those who lodged an objection, Ndifuna Ukwazi, has asked the City to use as an opportunity to implement “spatial justice to turn around distorted land practices”.

The organisation said the FWJK’s application presented the City with an opportunity to set a precedent regarding “inclusionary” zoning by granting the permission only if the developer showed a commitment to provide cheaper homes within the building that would be affordable to people on lower incomes.

It said the binding conditions, which should set terms including cost of apartments and intended beneficiaries, could also be used for future developments.

“Zero2One presents the City, the private sector and the people with the opportunity to decide on Cape Town’s future.

“Choosing ‘business as usual’, where the poor and working class are excluded from the inner city, will see Zero2One as both spatially violent and a blight in Cape Town, further entrenching inequality, segregation and the legacy of apartheid,” the organisation said.

It said the inclusion of affordable housing built in the same building as luxury apartments was being done in other world-class cities such as New York and London.

“Historically the City had given the rights for free, which means that the citizens are subsidising millions of rand to the development of exclusive buildings. Now here’s an opportunity for the city, which is empowered by legislation, to ask for something back.”

The organisation said public investments had been made in infrastructure and services in the city centre such as the MyCiTi and public policing.

It was incumbent on the City that it protected both spatial justice objectives and the “public’s purse” by ensuring that, in exchange for valuable land-use departures, developers included affordable housing in developments.

Herron said the City was working on a proposed inclusionary housing policy and was engaging with various stakeholders, including private developers about their role in the provision of affordable housing.

These engagements would assist it to determine how the city implemented and regulated the imperative.

FWJK regional director Craig Armstrong said plans for the development included the provision of 104 apartments which would go for less than R800000 per apartment - the effective selling price in 2020.

The apartments would only be offered for sale once construction had commenced, and an estate agent would handle the sales.

Armstrong said the company also had a few developments in the pipeline which focused on the provision of affordable housing that would be rolled out within the next 12 months.

Ndifuna Ukwazi said “entry-level” and “affordable housing” were different.

It said based on the going rates for purchase in the city centre, households would have to earn between R46000 and R72000 per month to afford a 10% deposit on one of the apartments.

To rent, household incomes would need to be about R33000, R45000 and R66000 per month.

The median household income in Cape Town is R6400 per month.

Herron said the city’s municipal planning tribunal would decide on the FWJK’s application.

In addition, he said it would announce the qualifying bidders for the development of the Foreshore Freeway precinct within the next six to eight weeks.