Press Statement 4 May 2023
NU Welcomes the Release of City Land along the Buitengracht Corridor for Affordable Housing
On 6 April 2023, the City of Cape Town applied for the rezoning, consolidation and subdivision of one site along the Buitengracht Corridor (Cape Town CBD) for the future release and development of mixed-income housing. The application forms part of the Foreshore Gateway Vision Framework Plan (2021) where the City plans to release 6 parcels of land to Social Housing Institutions or to the private sector for the development of an estimated 950 – 1000 mixed-income homes. This is part of a precinct approach where the City seeks to leverage the value of its own land using a cross-subsidisation model across all the sites to deliver affordable housing at scale.
In March 2019, Ndifuna Ukwazi published a research report entitled “City Leases: Cape Town’s Failure to Redistribute Land” where it was revealed that several leased parcels of land, including property along the Buitengracht Corridor, could be used for affordable housing, but was instead either vacant or being used for sporting purposes. Based on our own feasibility study for the Buitengracht Corridor, it was determined that a mix of market-rate units and affordable units using a split 60% / 40% respectively could yield up to 1 079 affordable homes.
The report argues that:
“The City of Cape Town must establish or delegate a co-ordinated department responsible for land management with clear powers and responsibilities to proactively manage all its public land, ensure that it meets its broad obligations to redistribute land and balance the competing interests of different departments who need access to land. The City of Cape Town needs additional capacity to rezone, derisk, package and tender land parcels for affordable housing.”
Attorney for Ndifuna Ukwazi, Jonty Cogger said:
“It is with delight and pleasure that the City has taken many of the recommendations in this report seriously. As an organisation, one of our primary objectives is to put pressure on the state to realise its constitutional and statutory obligations towards spatial transformation in the way it uses and regulates access to well-located public and private land. It has been our objective to point out the administrative failures when it comes to coordinating and managing public land for the purposes of achieving redistribution and transformation of spatial apartheid.”
While we wholeheartedly welcome the proactive efforts to package public land along the Buitengracht Corridor for the release of affordable housing, we do however have some concerns about the need to maximise the amount of affordable homes on these sites as well as making them as affordable as possible.
For instance, the City can only estimate the final number of affordable units, which will invariably be subject to a number of factors such as market conditions and appetite for residential housing, construction costs, and feasibility of including affordable housing. While the original goal may be to include at least 50% affordable housing, the known and unknown variables may drastically reduce this possible yield.
Another related concern is that the affordable housing will be contingent on the number of residential units (estimated to be between 1 800 and 2 400), but developers who bid for this land may also cater for other land uses, such as office or retail space. The City’s application actually states that “If other land uses are introduced in a more mixed-use development, the residential yield may be less, but the proposal is to ensure a significant provision of residential use within the development.”
In our view, it is a non-negotiable that public land should be used for the public good. Failing to safeguard against property market whims and not taking a firmer stance as a state entity empowered to demand spatial change is part of the reason why the legacy of apartheid has endured for so long. In order to guarantee spatial change, the City must attempt to secure the desired portion of affordable housing in all the properties along the Buitengracht Corridor. This can be done through securing the required percentage of affordable homes as a condition when the City rezones the land, and disposes of it to a private developer. In this way, it will be beyond doubt that affordable housing will be secured in any future private development.