Affordable housing on inner-city state land
Reclaim the City’s major campaign focus has been on the use and disposal of prime public land in and around the inner city. In particular, our campaign has centred on the demand to #StopTheSale of Tafelberg in Sea Point – a large property sold by the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works to a private school in December 2015. A favourable social housing feasibility report and a prior objection to the sale from the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements prove that the site is suitable and needed to fulfill the Provincial Government’s own objective to reverse apartheid through “integrated and more inclusive Human Settlements”.
On 5 May, after pressure from Reclaim the City, the Province agreed to a court settlement which would temporarily stop the sale of the Tafelberg site. Province issued a new notice of the proposed disposal of Tafelberg and called for submissions from the public. During the ensuing 21 day public participation period Reclaim the City gathered 937 objections to the sale from religious leaders, city ratepayers, urban planners, academics, rights organisations, and ordinary Cape Town residents across barriers of race and class. A campaign petition gathered 4290 signatures in objection to the sale. These objections were delivered to the Department of Transport and Public Works on the submissions deadline, 9 June 2016.
Read more: For select objections to the Tafelberg sale, visit the #StopTheSale website
After the submissions deadline, Ndifuna Ukwazi researchers supporting Reclaim the City have helped with two major exposes which throw the legitimacy of the Tafelberg sale to the Phyllis Jowell School into question. Firstly, an article by the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism showed that the chief provincial official responsible for the Tafelberg sale heads a company holding around R190 million in property investments in the vicinity of the Tafelberg site – investments which stood to appreciate because of the sale. Secondly, that MEC Donald Grant lied to Provincial Parliament and the public about where the proceeds for the Tafelberg sale would be spent.
In response to the submissions received from Reclaim the City supporters, Premier Helen Zille and her Provincial Cabinet commissioned a study on the feasibility of Social Housing on the Tafelberg site. That financial model was published on in mid-November 2016, and proved that 270 Social Housing units were in fact feasible on the site.
The publication of the financial model brings Province to the brink of an unprecedented decision: to begin dismantling apartheid spatial design in Cape Town. It looks like a substantial commitment towards building the first new affordable housing in the inner-city since the end of apartheid. The fulfilment of this commitment would be a victory for black African and coloured working class people across Cape Town. Public Participation on the financial model ends on 31 January 2017.
Read more: “Helen Zille’s adviser and ex-public works head in R190m conflict of interest” – exposé by Craig McCune for amaBhungane (17 July 2016)
Read more: “#WCLeaks reveal that Public Works sold Tafelberg to subsidize unaffordable provincial office block“ – our response to MEC Donald Grant’s lies about the Tafelberg proceeds
Read more: an oped by Julian Sendin on why prime public land sales deepen the class and race divide in Cape Town
Background – inner-city affordable housing needed to reverse apartheid
On 11 September 1966, the National Party government declared District Six a “whites only” area in terms of an apartheid law called the Group Areas Act. Over the next two decades, 70 000 people were removed from District Six to ghettos, like Mitchells Plain, Manenberg and Hanover Park, designed and built by the apartheid regime. Throughout Cape Town there were forty-two areas of forced removal. Most of District Six was demolished, and remains desolate due to a stunted land restitution process.
During apartheid, black African migrant workers in Cape Town were also excluded from housing opportunities near the city, and were confined to townships and hostels on the urban periphery. Those caught and arrested for pass violations were forcibly removed and dumped hundreds of kilometres away in “bantustans” like the Ciskei and Transkei.
Forced removals and migrant influx control enhanced centuries of segregationist urban planning and laws in Cape Town. Since the end of apartheid, the apartheid design of our city has endured. Because of the continuance of this legacy, Cape Town may well be the most segregated city in the world. The city is also in the midst of a housing crisis, where 300 000 households lack adequate housing and many thousands more are in danger of being evicted due to rising property prices and rentals.
Our national, provincial and local governments recognise that they have a role to play to address and reverse apartheid settlement patterns in our cities. The state owns many parcels of land in our near the inner-city. Policies dictate that it should use some of these properties for housing development. To date, it has however failed to build a single affordable housing unit in the inner-city. Instead, many of these land parcels have been leased or sold-off to private developers.