Giv­ing ten­ants foot on prop­erty ladder


THE City of Cape Town’s Hu­man Set­tle­ments De­part­ment is of­fer­ing about 9 000 qual­i­fy­ing ten­ants who are liv­ing in coun­cil-owned rental prop­er­ties the opportunit­y to pur­chase their units to be­come prop­erty owners.

These prop­er­ties in­clude free­stand­ing and semi-de­tached houses, ter­raced or row houses and maisonette­s lo­cated in ar­eas such as Gugulethu, Val­halla Park, Mitchells Plain, Hei­de­veld and Nyanga.

The De­vel­op­ment Ac­tion Group (DAG) ac­knowl­edges this ini­tia­tive as a no­ble idea that of­fers many house­holds a foot­step on the prop­erty ladder.

How­ever, the suc­cess of such an ini­tia­tive is largely de­pen­dent on the de­sign and im­ple­men­ta­tion thereof. There are sev­eral ques­tions and/or chal­lenges to con­sider:

The city is con­sti­tu­tion­ally ob­li­gated to pro­vide ac­cess to ad­e­quate housing for its res­i­dents, and it is im­por­tant for the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties to shed light on why it has de­cided to sell rather than give the houses to the ten­ants or re­tain them as cru­cial af­ford­able rental units.

The no­tion that housing can be utilised as an as­set lift­ing peo­ple out of poverty has proven to be not al­ways the case.

A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of units be­ing sold may re­quire se­ri­ous ren­o­va­tions. What ef­forts will the city make to en­sure that the units be­ing sold are in an ad­e­quate state? Re­place­ment of rental stock: pub­lic rental stock is a key av­enue for the peo­ple to find sub­sidised af­ford­able housing in an ur­ban­is­ing metro. It is crit­i­cal that the city does not lose sight of pro­vid­ing state-sup­ported rental.

Will these 9 000 units be re­placed with so­cial housing or af­ford­able rental units?

There are se­ri­ous con­cerns around the city’s abil­ity to man­age its rental stock, par­tic­u­larly its abil­ity to col­lect rent from ten­ants. Be­cause the city is un­able to col­lect rent on these prop­er­ties, own­er­ship can­not be the solution. In­stead, in-depth anal­y­sis of the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties with the pub­lic man­age­ment of rental stock must be con­ducted. Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion/mar­ket-led dis­place­ment is a threat to the ben­e­fi­cia­ries, es­pe­cially their abil­ity to re­main home­own­ers. A sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of them have in­ter­mit­tent income, and the ten­ure se­cu­rity will shift from rental to own­er­ship.

It is DAG’s hope that the City of Cape Town in­tends to make the nec­es­sary mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures.

While the city’s of­fer is a pos­i­tive step, it should be done in a man­ner that is fair and just.

There are many les­sons in re­la­tion to the fail­ure of housing pro­grammes, es­pe­cially with low-cost, gov­ern­ment-sub­sidised housing own­er­ship pro­grammes.

It will be im­por­tant for the city to bear these les­sons in mind when rolling out this ini­tia­tive.

Saal is a sea­soned hu­man rights re­searcher, skilled in quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive re­search, pol­icy anal­y­sis and project im­pact eval­u­a­tions. Kumar is ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of DAG. Over the last 15 years, he has worked on post-dis­as­ter, post-con­flict and in­for­mal set­tle­ment up­grad­ing across the world.

Matiashe is a trained spa­tial plan­ner. He cur­rently serves as DAG’s lead re­searcher on small and medi­um­re­search projects re­lated to housing and ur­ban de­vel­op­ment

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