The announcement made by the City of Cape Town last week that the Lower Buitengracht Road scheme in the City Bowl has been amended and promulgated to release about 11 254 m² of City-owned land for development has been met with criticism by a local housing lobby group, Ndifuna Ukwazi.
The group says the site, based between Helen Suzman Drive and Shortmarket Street, should be used to build affordable and market-rate housing.
The City, on Council’s approval in May 2020, submitted an application to the Provincial Government for the amendment of the road reserve as it was outdated (stemming from the 1970s), and sterilised significant portions of developable land in this part of the central business district. This land has been underutilised for over 40 years and is now available for the City’s CBD recovery and land release programmes.
Currently, most of this land is vacant or being used for paid parking that is managed by private companies easing the land from the City.
The City’s urban catalytic investment branch is now applying to the development management department for the rezoning of the land to maximise the full development potential of these land parcels, among which for retail, commercial, and residential opportunities.
This process included substantial heritage and archaeology due diligence and engagement with relevant heritage authorities.
Nick Budlender, a researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi, says: “While we welcome the potential release of this land, we want to highlight that it is both desirable and possible to build a mixture of affordable and market-rate housing in the Buitengracht Corridor, just as we demonstrated when we first exposed the inefficient and unjust use of public land in the area back in 2019.”
Eddie Andrews, Deputy Mayor and Mayco member for spatial planning and environment, says the release of the land offers an opportunity to re-imagine the area and to develop the assets in the interest of the surrounding communities but says “nothing has been decided” as yet.
He says residents and interested parties will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed rezoning of the land in the coming months.
“This will be a pivotal moment to submit ideas and proposals to the City. I will inform the public when we are commencing the public participation process. Once the rezonings have been finalised, the City may follow a process to make the land available for development.”
Budlender says social housing institutions should not be kept in the dark.
“It seems that social housing institutions have not been consulted about the sale of land in the Corridor, which is obviously concerning given the scale and intensity of our housing crisis. Selling this land to the highest bidder would be a short-termist approach that would not lead to any sustained benefits for the people of Cape Town,” he explains.
According to Andrews, the intended rezoning of the resulting land parcels along Lower Buitengracht will create opportunities to improve existing and new public open spaces, encourage safer pedestrian and cycle routes, and contribute to connectivity along Buitengracht, and between Lower Buitengracht, De Waterkant, Prestwich, Gallows Hill, and the Strand Street Quarry.
He says this initiative by the City’s Integrated Development Plan and Land Release Programme is intended to, over time, make available strategically located public-owned land for development to the benefit of all Capetonians.