There seems to be some light at the end of a long affordable housing struggle as the City last week tabled the release of the Salt River Market precinct for development and construction of social housing.
The City also released a second site in Pickwick Road.
Social housing lobby groups Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi, who have advocated and protested the delay of these sites, said it has been five years since 11 pieces of public land in Woodstock, Salt River and the inner city were earmarked for affordable housing.
On Saturday 16 July dozens of protestors joined the “Empty Plots and Promises Commemoration Walking Tour” which was hosted by Reclaim the City in partnership with Ndifuna Ukwazi to lament the City’s “failure to deliver” affordable housing on the 11 sites.
Social housing policy, set nationally, targets households with gross monthly incomes ranging from R1 850 to R22 000. The Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) recently estimated average monthly rentals of R722 – R6 475 for these projects, depending on household income.
The City says it currently has more than 6 500 social housing units in the overall pipeline across 50 land parcels citywide.
Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis says the Salt River site would deliver more than 200 social housing units within a mixed-use development.
Hill-Lewis says Salt River Market is already the third social housing site brought to Council in three months since the launch of the City’s Land Release Priority Programme in April.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that we are tabling the handing over of the important Salt River Market precinct for the construction of over 200 social housing units by a social housing institution. We are making history by enabling this nine-storey development right in the heart of the city, at Salt River Circle, close to social and economic amenities.”
The mayor says another major project set to deliver 600 social housing units in an eight-storey development is Pickwick Road in Salt River.
He says together with Newmarket Street, they’ve now brought three properties in three months to council worth more than 1 000 social housing units.
“Overall, the Salt River Market development comprises 700 mixed market units, including 216 social housing units. The development will benefit from capital and operational cross-subsidisation through the inclusion of the open market residential units.”
He adds: “So our commitment to more affordable housing in Cape Town is about giving people a pathway out of poverty.”
Disha Govender, Head of Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre, says this is a welcome step towards seeing affordable housing on the site and we do applaud the mayor for fast-tracking this process and we hope to see the same effort going into completing the projects soon.
“The struggle to release the Salt River Market for affordable housing dates back to as early as 2008. Fourteen years have passed since then; the entire lifespan of someone in Grade 9.”
Robyn Park-Ross, Researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi, says they will continue to put pressure on the City to complete these sites.
“While land release is an essential step to see affordable homes on the ground, the land for the Pine Road and Dillon Lane sites in the same area were approved for release in October 2019 and yet by July (this year) there are still no homes on the ground. These examples warn us that it may still be many years before we see homes on the Salt River Market site.”
Malusi Booi, Mayco member for human settlements, says with the latest release of Salt River Market, the City now has over 800 central Cape Town social housing units in or “nearing the construction phase” via social housing partners.
Inner city projects in the land-use management phase include Newmarket Street (+- 200 SH units), and Woodstock Hospital precinct, where around 700 social housing units have been delayed by the orchestrated building hi-jackings of March 2017.
He says the City is committed to doing everything possible to fast-track this social housing through the correct legal channels.
Govender says it is “unacceptable” for the City to label citizen-led housing initiatives as illegal, where the “City has failed” to build well-located affordable housing.
“Reclaim the City’s occupation of Cissie Gool House and Ahmed Kathrada House are citizen-led initiatives in the absence of any other well-located affordable housing for the over 1 500 people living in these Houses. The City deploys this same citizen-shaming onto those experiencing homelessness.”
Govender says many of the people occupying Cissie Gool House have been evicted from their homes in Woodstock, Salt River and other inner-city areas.
“This as a result of unchecked gentrification brought about by the City’s own policies and the lack of urgent state action to provide truly affordable housing in a manner which does not entrench spatial apartheid patterns.
“The City of Cape Town is a respondent in several legal challenges where its acknowledgment of and approach to its obligations to address spatial apartheid is inconsistent.”