Dear Premier Zille,
My name is Andrew Fleming, and I write to you regarding the pending sale of the Tafelberg School site in Seapoint. I am the former head of research at the Cape Town Partnership: While there, I specialized in the viability of affordable housing in Cape Town’s Central City. This work built on my past academic research on the negative effects of low-income evictions in Woodstock, particularly for female-headed households. It is clear that the property markets in Cape Town have done little to include the city’s low-income residents, and have in general led to exclusionary housing opportunities at a metro-wide level. Due to the nature of the city’s market-based property system, government (both local and provincial) is one of the most important partners in helping to reverse exclusionary housing systems in Cape Town. The assets that government holds, both in land and otherwise, can if used effectively be some of the biggest catalysts for inclusive housing opportunities to actually take shape in the city.
While at the CTP, I helped coordinate a two-day social housing feasibility exercise at the Tafelberg School in Seapoint: It was an incredibly productive and participatory session, where the ideas of how to make affordable housing possible on the site covered not only physical feasibility, but personal connectivity as well– how residents could integrate into the neighbourhood, become a stronger part of the local economy, make use of the existing public facilities (like the promenade, the public pools, and the MyCiTi Bus), and become a much-needed positive example of what integrated affordable housing could look like. The workshop brought increased enthusiasm for the potential of integrated affordable housing in Seapoint, along with the recognition that an innovative financial solution needed to be developed to make the project financially viable in a partnership-driven way.
It was thus with great sadness that I read that the Province was looking to sell the site to a private bidder, ostensibly to develop a “market” very similar to the Old Biscuit Mill. As a former Seapoint resident, I can both professionally and personally say that the outcome of another Biscuit Mill would be one of the worst things to happen on that land. The Tafelberg School site presents us with the opportunity to champion a new model of affordable housing, particularly one that shows residents the dignity and respect they deserve by including them in a heritage building site. The move would say to lower-income people that yes, you too are worthy of living in an amazing suburb and inhabiting part of this country’s history– one that wronged you in so many different ways.
The Provincial Finance Management Act supports the WCG in making use of state assets to advance the government’s overall development objectives. I wish to motivate in the strongest of terms for the WCG to not dispose of the land to any private parties, and to instead engage further with NGOs, financial institutions, residents, and other parties to find a way to make affordable housing feasible and implementable on the site. You would have no shortage of willing participants in this regard: Reclaim The City has already done so much invaluable work in bringing this need to the public’s attention, and other groups like the Development Action Group, the National Association of Social Housing Organizations, and others have for years been laying the groundwork for a project like this to be implemented in Cape Town.
I implore you to take this crucial opportunity to reverse the legacy of Apartheid planning, to desegregate our urban spaces, and to begin to right the many spatial injustices dealt to South Africans by history, by making use of the Tafelberg School site for affordable housing. If financial innovation is needed, please convene willing parties to create solutions: It is possible, given the right levels of innovation, leadership, support, and partnership, and you will have no shortage of willing participants.
This site presents us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Cape Town. Success at Tafelberg could make or break the future of integrated affordable housing in Cape Town, and indeed in South Africa. Please stand with the people of Cape Town as we work to make the city a more integrated, connected, and prosperous place for all.
Thank you for your time and consideration,