Cape Argus

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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