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Calls for City to make good on affordable housing promises

Housing rights activists protested outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) where the City held an Affordable Housing Indaba. Picture: Supplied

Housing rights activists protested outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) where the City held an Affordable Housing Indaba. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 10, 2022

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PROPERTY developers and housing rights activists have called on the City to speed up its plans to release parcels of land to build affordable housing.

The City unveiled its plans and launched the Land Release Programme for More Affordable Housing at an indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Friday. Among the attendee were private property developers, social housing institutions, micro-developers, the Minister of Human Settlements, Mmamoloko Kubayi, MEC for Human Settlements, Tertius Simmers and Premier Alan Winde.

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The City said 14 parcels of land would be released during the 2023/2024 financial year. These included land in Roeland Street, Parow, Maitland, Woodstock and Salt River.

Other projects to be made available for social housing included in Woodstock in New Market Street and Pickwick Road, and the Woodstock Hospital precinct.

Ndifuna Ukwazi, an activist and law centre that seeks to advance urban land justice in Cape Town, welcomed the City’s commitment to release the land.

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However, the organisation said the emphasis on the private sector and associated incentives was "deeply troubling".

"The cost of well-located land is a key barrier to affordable housing delivery and the state should embrace its power to release the public land it already owns or more tightly regulate the use of land to ensure greater delivery,“ it said in a statement.

In response to civil society and consistent advocacy from social movements, the City in 2017 announced plans to release 11 parcels of public land in Woodstock, Salt River and inner-city Cape Town for development of social and transitional housing.

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"Five years after these commitments, none of these sites have been released, despite readiness from both private developers and social housing institutions," it said.

Western Cape Property Development Forum chairperson, Deon van Zyl said while he welcomed the City's plans, the regulatory and legislative framework had to be changed.

"Unfortunately there was no detail on how these would be fixed. Leaders make political statements, but the devil is in the detail," said Van Zyl.

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A crowd of housing rights activists from across the city who had over the years called for the release of well-located public land development of dignified housing were not invited to the event.

They protested outside the venue, demanding inclusion in the decision-making processes to release the land and the development of affordable housing.

The protesters sang struggle songs and carried placards which read: “Rendering people homeless is a crime” and “Welcome to the People’s Housing Indaba”

The City has a growing housing backlog of more than 500 000 households.

To accommodate the population growth, it is estimated that roughly 500 000 housing opportunities need to be created between now and 2028, the Indaba was told.

While the City would continue to work with traditional private developers and social housing partners, Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said there was also a move to work with micro-developers and households themselves to meet the increasing demand for affordable housing, especially for those earning below R22 000 per month.

He said some households in the townships were already building rental flats and there was a need to support and encourage that practice to help meet the housing needs.

The City said the outcomes of the indaba would inform its accelerated Affordable Housing Programme.

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