Affordable ­housing ‘needed’

2017-05-23 06:00

The local property industry is facing challenges in understanding the affordable housing market and the opportunities for developers.

This according to Deon van Zyl, chairperson of the Western Cape Property Developers Forum (WCPDF), who recently spoke at the organisation’s annual conference.

Van Zyl noted that the industry had not moved much closer to understanding the differences between affordable accommodation and low-cost housing.

Referring to the Tafelberg School case – in which a sale awarded to the Phyllis Jowell Day School by provincial government on the grounds that affordable housing should be built on the Sea Point site – as “a wake-up call”, he asked: “Can we really afford not to use strategically located state-owned land for affordable accommodation? In other words, for the creation of accommodation for people who are active in the economy, but who cannot pay market prices?”

Van Zyl said affordable accommodation was not charity.

“It’s a business opportunity just like student housing became an opportunity when universities could not provide sufficient accommodation. When affordable accommodation is able to net prices of around R200m², and you place these figures before developers, suddenly the penny begins to drop.”

Tasso Evangelinos, CEO of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID), says the City of Cape Town’s proposed foreshore freeway precinct project could see thousands of affordable units incorporated into its design.

“The project is the first public-private partnership that has been put on the table to create affordable options in the CBD. With the amount of government land, from municipal to national government level, that currently still exists in and directly borders the CBD, we hope this will be the first development of its kind and that others will follow,” he says.

Cape Town’s traditional city centre accounts for 25% of the city’s entire economy and over 30% of its workforce, Evangelinos says.

“We now have a growing residential community and, along with it, a high demand for the apartment stock that is available, which in turn has driven prices up as one would see in any high-demand, low-supply chain. “This has meant, though, that for most of its workforce, the downtown lifestyle is not something they can afford in terms of residential property. And yet a diverse residential community in which all economic groups have a stake is vital to the vibrancy of a downtown if it is to have a life beyond its office hours.”

Challenging the development industry to get to grips with the concept of affordable accommodation, Van Zyl added that the industry needed to “break through the fear factor”.

He said the “real opportunity” was in rental units which were not intended to be “forever homes” where “people would one day retire”. Van Zyl felt it was time for Cape Town to step up its game in terms of the global trend towards what downtowns abroad referred to as “nano units”: Flats often no larger than small bachelor flats with community-shared facilities such as kitchens, dining rooms and recreational areas.

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