South Africa

Western Cape: Government to build 1,700 affordable housing units near central Cape Town

Affordable housing is on the cards for a provincially owned property near the Cape Town CBD — which has seen major protests calling for exactly that. But Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said if processes could be streamlined and sped up, the province could provide affordable housing for up to 25% of people on the province’s housing waiting list.

The Old Conradie Hospital in Pinelands, Cape Town, has finally been given the green light to be transformed into social housing, said the Western Cape government on Wednesday afternoon.

At a press briefing after a provincial cabinet session, Western Cape premier Helen Zille described the decision to get the housing under way as a “big, big day for us”.

The provincially owned old Conradie Hospital in Pinelands, about 12km from the city centre will see 3,602 new residential units built — including 1,764 units specifically for grant-funded, affordable housing.

The first phase of housing is expected to be completed within two to three years, and construction is expected to start at the end of 2019, said Donald Grant, MEC for Transport and Public Works.

Additionally, there are plans for commercial space, recreational spaces and two new schools.

People who live within 7km of the hospital site and earn between R1,500 and R15,000 a month are earmarked for the affordable housing, said Bonginkosi Madikizela, MEC for Human Settlements.

Madikizela was quick to point out that “you can’t own social housing — it is for people who need social housing” after a journalist asked whether those moving into the affordable housing units could eventually own the planned units.

The construction cost is projected to be R3-billion. More than 13,600 jobs will be created, said Zille.

Describing the three-year process to hand over the provincially owned site to Concor Construction, Zille said:

Today is a significant milestone for redress of the apartheid spatial planning legacy, and for well-located affordable integrated housing opportunities for citizens.”

Zille confirmed 30% of the allocated units had to go to those in the lowest income bracket — between R1,500 and R15,000 a month, and the rest, Madikizela said, is “first come first served” — though he did not elaborate.

During the Western Cape State of the Province Address in February 2018, the premier said one of her administration’s key priorities was “the expansion of housing opportunities in well-located affordable units and social rental stock”.

Read Daily Maverick’s report on Zille’s State of the Province Address here.

At the time, Zille mentioned the Conradie Hospital specifically, saying that through the province’s Better Living Model, the project was a “game-changer” — a pioneering method of transforming apartheid’s spatial legacy, while ensuring viable affordable housing, cross-subsidised by state subsidies and market-based property sales.

But the project has come under scrutiny from residents in Pinelands and surrounding areas. Riad Davids, vice-chair of the Pinelands Ratepayers and Residents Association, told GroundUp that government had not taken into consideration the community’s concerns about the project — such as making the units bigger and providing more parking and recreational spaces.

Instead of the City meeting and speaking to us, we’ve got to go to court,” said Davids in November 2018. Residents from Pinelands, Thornton and Kensington would now take legal steps and lodge objections before the Western Cape High Court.

Zille told Daily Maverick she wasn’t aware of any legal action thus far against the province, but confirmed there were threats of legal action.

Additionally, Transport and Public Works MEC Donald Grant said during the briefing his office had “signed an agreement with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) for the upgrading of Thornton and Mutual stations”.

Grant also said new train sets, due in the 2019/2020 financial year, would be implemented before phase one of the project would be completed, should Prasa remain on track. There would also be plans either for Golden Arrow or MyCiti roll-outs in the area.

Social housing in Cape Town

Should the Conradie housing project be successful, it could serve as a model for social housing in the Cape Town city centre. Activist groups have been lobbying for affordable housing within the city.

The announcement comes a day after activist groups Reclaim the City, #UniteBehind and the Social Justice Coalition moved into “Site B — an open area on the Cape Town Foreshore — and “reclaimed” it.

The piece of land within the Cape Town CBD had been sold to Growthpoint Properties by the City of Cape Town. Reclaim The City says the land was undervalued by R140-million.

Public land should never be sold in a housing crisis. And if it is, then the money should be used for basic services or affordable housing for the poor and working-class people,” said the activist groups in a statement before the occupation.

The groups built shacks on the land early on Tuesday morning, but by nightfall the groups had been interdicted by Growthpoint Properties to vacate the property immediately.

Read these reports by GroundUp on the groups’ initial occupation of “Site B” and their subsequent removal.

We are trying to develop a viable market through sufficient supply in the poorer income brackets,” said Zille.

The premier is looking to adapt the public participation processes and working with the Human Science Research Council to streamline processes to push for affordable housing, while still protecting the quality of the process.

There were six rounds of public participation with the Old Conradie Hospital, and Zille said this inhibited development.

Given the regulatory environment, the timelines we have met have proven ambitious, and we now have a better understanding of reforms needed in this regulatory space to better speed up developments of this kind in future,” she said.

Zille said she would write to president Cyril Ramaphosa to fast-track legislation that would allow state-owned land disposal to be approved in the shortest possible timeframe.

This would allow more state-owned land to be used for housing. Grant said the renamed Cissie Gool House (Woodstock Hospital), the renamed Ahmed Kathrada House (Somerset Hospital ) and the Artscape precinct in the city centre could benefit from a shorter disposal period.

Zille said if these projects could be completed speedily, “we could take 25% off our waiting list”. DM