Affordable housing for households earning less than R15 000 per month may be included in one of Cape Town’s luxury inner city developments if Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille agrees to it.
In the heart of the city centre — at the corner of Adderley and Strand streets — a major development of a 42-storey building is set to be completed in 2020. It will be called the Zero2One tower and it is planned to be the tallest skyscraper in Cape Town.
Housing activists at Ndifuna Ukwazi, a research organisation and law clinic, have put pressure on the City of Cape Town and developers to include affordable housing in the tower, arguing that less than 6% of coloured and black people in the city could afford to live in one Zero2One apartments.
The developers, FWJK, agreed last year to include 312 “affordable New York style apartments selling for less than R 800 000”, but De Lille may force them to make additional plans for inclusive housing.
In a notice sent to Ndifuna Ukwazi, De Lille said that she is considering including a new condition on the development. FWJK had been granted more floor space by the city to expand the Zero2One tower, but De Lille has proposed that 20% of that space should be reserved for affordable housing.
“I am considering the aforesaid condition and invite you to let me have your comments on the proposed condition by no later than the close of business on Friday, 1 June 2018, in order that I may consider same before I make my decision,” De Lille wrote to Ndifuna Ukwazi.
Households that earn less than R15 000 per month that are currently in the city’s housing database would qualify for housing in the tower.
“We believe Mayor De Lille is beginning to understand that the housing crisis, extreme inequality and lack of transformation in our city requires robust action and that urban land justice is good for people, the economy and the environment,” said Ndifuna Ukwazi co-director Jared Rossouw.
“This decision is not a gesture — she is obliged by law to advance the right to housing, and desegregate the city and we would ensure this is enforced. However, leadership is far more effective than litigation and all councillors in the city would do well to recognise that business as usual with regard to land is no longer an option.”
Politics and spatial transformation
De Lille and Cape Town mayoral committee member for urban development Brett Herron admit the city is still grappling with spatial apartheid: black and white people remain segregated because the legacy of apartheid spatial planning remains deeply entrenched in the city.
In recent weeks however, spatial planning has become more important to De Lille’s own battle with her party, the Democratic Alliance (DA).
In a press conference after she was booted from the party, De Lille said her plans to spatially transform the city led to a rift with the party, who allegedly disagreed with her transformation plan.
The DA has denied this, saying it supports spatial transformation in Cape Town, but affordable housing is now a possible play of power in the DA versus De Lille feud.
While De Lille has told Ndifuna Ukwazi she will consider approving the condition that Zero2One must include affordable housing, it remains to be seen just how long she will be in office.
De Lille has returned to her seat as mayor for an interim period until the high court rules on her application to review and set aside the DA’s cessation of membership clause on grounds it is unconstitutional and a violation of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.
The clause was used to remove De Lille from the party two weeks ago. The case is set to be heard on Friday, May 25.
Housing activists continue protest
In March 2017, housing activists at Reclaim the City occupied the Helen Bowden Nurses Home in Greenpoint and renamed it Ahmed Kathrada House. The building, owned by the provincial government, is earmarked for social housing, but activists say the government is yet to provide detailed plans or timelines for developing the proposed housing.
The province has served an eviction notice on the occupiers, but Reclaim the City insists the occupation will continue until there is affordable housing in the inner city.
In the meantime, Ndifuna Ukwazi says that it has already opposed 40 new developments proposed for the inner city that will be unaffordable for poor black people.
“Ndifuna Ukwazi has objected to a further 40 exclusive developments in well-located areas across the city that also seek additional land use rights. It is clear that the City cannot continue to make ad hoc decisions,” Ndifuna Ukwazi said in a statement.
With the Zero2One building only set for completion in 2020, it may be a while yet before affordable housing is made available in the tower. However, housing activists are continuing to apply pressure on the government to provide social housing in the inner city.
“The mayor now needs to ensure that large parcels of city land leased to private clubs and associations for elite interests in well located areas is redistributed to those who needs access to land the most,” Rossouw said.