The Development Action Group charged that the City of Cape Town was intent on using any “legal loophole” to block redressing the apartheid spatial injustice. Picture: Brendan Magaar/ African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Spatial planning justice activists have dismissed as “blatant lies” the reasons offered by the City of Cape Town for its about-turn on social housing developments.

And they have warned of severe financial implications for the economy and the development and construction sectors.

The recent U-turn by the City on social housing development on five sites in Woodstock and Salt River, including Pine Road and the Salt River Market, triggered anger and fear among activists and property developers that the process might be set back by at least two years.

In its 13 years of governing Cape Town, the DA does not have a single project it has delivered that tackles spatial segregation and the legacy of the Group Areas Act.

Mayor Dan Plato and mayoral committee member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi gave different and opposing reasons in interviews this week in support of the decision.

The Development Action Group (DAG) charged that the city was intent on using any “legal loophole” to block redressing the apartheid spatial injustice. “Our hopes were high, but the trust is now broken. It doesn’t look like the city has formulated a clear process. There’s lack of political will,” said DAG executive director Adi Kumar.

He added with every delay, costs related to development projects went up and some developers might not find it worth a business risk to bid for the projects again.

Chairperson of the Western Cape Property Development Forum Deon Van Zyl said the decision was a severe blow to the development and construction sectors which contributed largely to job creation, but instead were losing jobs.

“The city started off well, but halfway through, after developers had spent a lot of money preparing and submitting bids, they come back saying someone in the supply chain management process did not cross all the Ts. It’s really starting to sound more like a political excuse,” Van Zyl said.

He also questioned the lack of clear policies and legislative framework to guide the delivery of social housing projects, saying it showed a lack of understanding of the economic impact of decisions taken.

“We call on the city and the provincial government to identify the issues impeding delivery and let’s all work together.

“We cannot continue to have policies that are unsustainable, this impacts on the economy.”

When the city cancelled the Freeway Foreshore Precinct Project in 2017 due to “a wrong process”, it lost not only a solution to address the traffic congestion and affordable accommodation, but also foreign direct investment of R20 billion for the benefit of all Capetonians.

Yet, in the past financial year the city underspent by around R2.8bn on its capital budget which caters for infrastructure and, according to Van Zyl, that equated to about R788 million which could have been spent on wages.

Secretary for GOOD political party and former mayoral committee member for urban development Brett Herron accused the city of misleading the public on the social housing projects.

He said all the city had done was “mislead the public” and create a narrative that sought to suggest that “irregular processes” were followed when he was in charge of the projects.

“We issued a request for proposals for the five sites but each site was treated differently... five separate development opportunities that would yield 4 000 social housing units. The process was legally compliant and we received proposals.”

Herron challenged Plato to a public debate on the social housing issue, an invitation which Plato said “was not brought to his attention”.

Weekend Argus