CT so­cial hous­ing brought to stand­still

Depart­men­tal dis­agree­ments are halt­ing the de­vel­op­ment of five prime sites in Cape Town

Mail & Guardian - - News - Ra’eesa Pather

City of Cape Town of­fi­cials are dead­locked over how to re­lease mu­nic­i­pal-owned land for so­cial hous­ing, paralysing the re­lease of five prime lo­ca­tions for af­ford­able hous­ing in and around the city bowl.

A trail of emails and damn­ing re­ports seen by the Mail & Guardian re­veal how a dis­pute by three city de­part­ments over a le­gal tech­ni­cal­ity have brought the de­liv­ery of well-lo­cated so­cial hous­ing to a near stand­still.

The prop­erty man­age­ment depart­ment and the im­mov­able prop­erty ad­ju­di­ca­tion com­mit­tee (IPAC) are the au­thor­i­ties re­spon­si­ble for man­ag­ing city-owned prop­erty and rec­om­mend­ing to the coun­cil what city-owned land can be trans­ferred.

Brett Her­ron, a lawyer and the for­mer Demo­cratic Al­liance and may­oral com­mit­tee mem­ber for ur­ban de­vel­op­ment and trans­port, has al­leged that this dis­pute over a le­gal tech­ni­cal­ity is a smoke­screen for IPAC and prop­erty man­age­ment to de­lib­er­ately block so­cial hous­ing.

“This is about the block­ages that have been put in place,” Her­ron said.

Since he re­signed last week, he has been on a fu­ri­ous cam­paign to point the blame at the DA for the short­age of so­cial hous­ing in Cape Town’s in­ner city.

Doc­u­ments show that of­fi­cials in prop­erty man­age­ment and the IPAC were turn­ing away pro­pos­als for land trans­fer be­fore they even reached those politi­cians Her­ron has claimed are re­spon­si­ble for the bot­tle­neck.

A progress re­port, dated Septem­ber 4 2018, in­cludes six sites in Wood­stock and Salt River that have been iden­ti­fied for so­cial hous­ing and mixed de­vel­op­ment use. Five of these projects have ground to a halt be­cause of a dis­pute about the le­gal­i­ties of how the city should dis­pose of its land, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

On the one side of the stand-off is the IPAC and prop­erty man­age­ment and on the other is the trans­port de­vel­op­ment au­thor­ity depart­ment, un­der which so­cial hous­ing falls.

The dis­pute is about at what point in the process a fea­si­bil­ity study of a “mixed-use” de­vel­op­ment is re­quired.

In the progress re­port, this le­gal con­fu­sion has been re­ferred to by the so­cial hous­ing of­fi­cials as the “chicken and egg dilemma”.

The progress re­port, au­thored by so­cial hous­ing of­fi­cials, was sub­mit­ted be­cause a spat was brew­ing be­tween Her­ron’s trans­port de­vel­op­ment au­thor­ity depart­ment — where so­cial hous­ing of­fi­cials work — and the IPAC and prop­erty man­age­ment. The re­ports served as a way for meet­ings be­tween the dis­grun­tled par­ties to be mon­i­tored by se­nior city of­fi­cials.

The Mu­nic­i­pal As­set Trans­fer Reg­u­la­tions gov­ern how mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties should trans­fer land. But the prop­erty man­age­ment depart­ment, ac­cord­ing to a le­gal opin­ion by the city’s le­gal ser­vices, raised ques­tions about how to in­ter­pret the reg­u­la­tions in re­la­tion to the de­vel­op­ment of the five sites.

The projects in Wood­stock and Salt River pro­pose so­cial hous­ing and com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ments. The reg­u­la­tions did not cover mixed-use de­vel­op­ments, ac­cord­ing to the le­gal opin­ion, lead­ing to con­fu­sion on the part of of­fi­cials.

The le­gal opin­ion was sought af­ter prop­erty man­age­ment raised con­cerns. It ad­vised that, for a mixe­duse de­vel­op­ment, the coun­cil would first need to ap­prove the trans­fer of the land and then put out a re­quest for pro­pos­als. Only once these were stud­ied would a fea­si­bil­ity study be per­mis­si­ble.

But, ac­cord­ing to the so­cial hous­ing progress re­port, project man­age­ment has asked for the value of the land — part of a fea­si­bil­ity study — to be in­cluded in the re­ports on the five sites be­fore they even go to coun­cil.

Although the trans­port de­vel­op­ment au­thor­ity depart­ment may be able to ig­nore the le­gal opin­ion, Heron has said his for­mer of­fi­cials had not yet re­ceived ap­proval to study the 15 bids that have been pro­posed for the sites and there­fore could not de­ter­mine the value. The bids were made be­fore the le­gal opin­ion was pro­vided. They can­not be eval­u­ated be­cause so­cial hous­ing of­fi­cials will study the pro­pos­als only af­ter the coun­cil ap­proves the land trans­fers. The projects are now stuck and there has been no progress re­ports since Septem­ber.

The M&G sent the city de­tailed ques­tions di­rected at the IPAC, the prop­erty man­age­ment depart­ment and city man­ager Lun­gelo Mban­dazayo.

But Priya Reddy, the direc­tor for com­mu­ni­ca­tions, said the city de­clined to com­ment. “The City of Cape Town is con­fi­dent in its pro­cesses,” she said.

The Salt River Mar­ket, which is lo­cated at the junc­tion of Al­bert and Voortrekker roads in Salt River, man­aged to es­cape the le­gal quag­mire be­cause the site was iden­ti­fied at least seven years ago, be­fore the le­gal opin­ion was sought.

In 2014, the site was val­ued at R18-mil­lion, but its value has since in­creased to R114-mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to re­ports the M&G has seen. But the Salt River Mar­ket de­vel­op­ment has been halted be­cause the DA cau­cus in the coun­cil has not yet sup­ported it.

A tear­ful Her­ron al­leged at a press con­fer­ence last week that the DA was de­lib­er­ately halt­ing so­cial hous­ing de­vel­op­ment in well-lo­cated ar­eas.

The cau­cus deputy leader, JP Smith, coun­tered this, say­ing: “The DA is solidly be­hind it.”

Her­ron al­leged that, dur­ing the cau­cus meet­ing at which the Salt River Mar­ket site was dis­cussed, Smith had said “trans­for­ma­tion raises alarm bells”. Smith has de­nied the claim and is pre­par­ing to send Her­ron a lawyer’s let­ter de­mand­ing a re­trac­tion.

But even be­fore the mat­ter was put be­fore the coun­cil, it was be­set by bu­reau­cratic de­lays, which mostly oc­curred when so­cial hous­ing of­fi­cials pre­sented the pro­posal to the IPAC, af­ter re­ceiv­ing the goa­head from project man­age­ment. Even­tu­ally the IPAC signed off on it and it could go to coun­cil.

Ul­ti­mately, while the of­fi­cials bicker, in­ner city so­cial hous­ing has been stymied.

De­lays: The ur­ban de­vel­op­ment depart­ment in Cape Town, formerly headed by Brett Heron, has pushed for so­cial hous­ing de­vel­op­ments such as at the Salt River Mar­ket in the in­ner city. Photo: David Har­ri­son

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