’Talk is cheap, we want action’ says organisations on the golf course housing development
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Shamiela and Deon January moved into lower Mowbray nine months ago.
When a church leader asked them to look after his property the family did not hesitate to leave Manenberg.
“This area is green, quiet and has the right facilities for raising our young children, unlike the Cape Flats where we are stuck on top of each other. Apart from one or two incidents of robberies recently, it’s safe. We would welcome an opportunity to live here permanently,” said Shamiela.
Last week, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen said he had tasked the City with releasing golf courses for housing.
In June the City indicated in the draft Strategic Development Framework plan (SDF) 2021, that it would “plan for future housing and/or mixed-use development” on the King David Mowbray Golf Club and would conduct feasibility studies, and prepare for development of the site, in two to five years.
This week, Mayco member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, James Vos said the identification of areas as having potential for development such as the Mowbray golf club did not mean their development was imminent.
“That said, we are willing to consider all views through the statutory public participation process, which has yet to begin,“ said Vos
Many residents and businesses in the area refused to talk openly about the prospect of a housing development on the golf course because it was “a political matter”.
But less than 500m from the golf course, lives Elizabeth Wood.
“I would welcome a housing development there ... anything besides low-cost housing will be a big no for me. We have plenty of expensive houses around here,“ said Woods.
Cape Town has 24 golf courses, 10 of which are on public land and 34 bowling greens, 26 of which are on public land.
Organisations advocating for housing and spatial redress have questioned the timing of the DA statement.
Head of Research and Advocacy at Ndifuna Ukwazi Michael Clark said: “Talk is cheap and we know that the City has made similar promises in 2016 when deputy mayor, Ian Neilson, said that there were too many golf courses and there was a need to rationalise,“ public land.
“Yet, in the six years since those promises were made not a single golf course or bowling green on public land has been released for the development of affordable housing,” said Clark.
Development Action Group (DAG) agreed.
“In view of historical commitments and the timing of these pronouncements, the statements made by the party may be perceived as electioneering,“ said researcher, Querida Saal.
For years organisations such as Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim the City advocated for the City to release well-located public land to address the legacy of spatial apartheid by developing social and/or affordable housing.
Clark said the City’s own policies stated that it owned 87 000 immovable assets including pieces of land but it continued to lease out well-located public land for the “exclusive use by a few at the expense of hundreds of thousands of Capetonians” who needed housing.
Next to the King David Mowbray Golf Club lies the 45-hectare long Rondebosch golf club, whose lease contract was renewed by the City last October for a period of 10 years, despite receiving 1 827 objections from civil society organisations, experts in economics, history, law and spatial planning.
At the time the City said the site, which was located next to the King David Mowbray Golf Club, had development constraints as it was in a high flood-line.
However, a study by Ndifuna Ukwazi proposed that more 1 433 families could be accommodated on the Rondebosch land in spite of the limitations of the site.
“If the City is serious about these promises, it should commit to immediately reviewing the leases over all golf courses and bowling greens on public land, refuse to sign any further leases over well-located public land without conducting feasibility studies to see if the land can be used for social and/or affordable housing, and urgently prioritise the release of well-located public land for the delivery of social and/or affordable housing,” said Clark.
Saal also noted: “In April 2016, incidentally also during an election year, the CoCT reported that it is in the process of consolidating golf courses located on public land, across the city. At the time, deputy mayor, Ian Neilson said that some rationalisation in terms of golf courses is needed and that the CoCT must consider its options with a longer-term perspective in mind. However, five years later, not much progress has been made."
However, she said the organisation hoped that the party was “indeed serious” about implementing the commitments they were now making.
Saal said the ideological convictions of a political party played a key role in steering the direction of implementation at the local or municipal level.
“The orientation of the political party leading the municipality sets the tone for what type of development takes place, where and how it takes place and whether land is sold for profit or used for transformative development goals. And this applies to any political party voted into power through elections. This is important because local government officials implement the mandate based on which party came to power or the promises the governing party made during election season. It would be close to impossible for officials to implement a policy aimed at releasing some of these golf courses for affordable housing when the political party leading that municipality does not favour such an approach,” she said.
For two business people in Mowbray who refused to be identified, the housing development would mark a “new era“, which they would welcome.
“Golf courses seem to have declining members. The City has to allocate land as there are more and more people and golf courses are a good place to do that,” said one business person.
However, he was sceptical about the cost.
“If you think that anybody would be able to buy property there you have to think twice because it will cost millions of rands,” he said.
Saal said it was possible for some of the golf courses, which “are public goods”, be transformed into affordable, integrated, and inclusive human settlements.