THE CATHOLIC JUSTICE AND PEACE COMMISSION OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF CAPE TOWN – SUBMISSION ON SALE THE TAFELBERG SITE
The Government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA) orders that state-owned land must be used first and foremost for service delivery purposes (including housing). All government human settlement policy (municipal, provincial and national) emphasises also that affordable housing must be integrated into well-served areas of economic opportunity, and be geared towards reversing the segregated and fragmented settlement patterns we inherited from apartheid. The Western Cape government’s own 2014 Spatial Development Framework (SDF) acknowledges that one of the biggest barriers to advancing this objective is the availability of land, and that securing well-located land for affordable housing must be prioritised.
This is why the Justice and Peace Commission of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese Cape Town is baffled that the sale of the old Tafelberg School property to private developers is regarded as an option by the Western Cape Provincial government. In doing so, the government is acting contrary to its own policies and against the advice of its own Human Settlement department, which proposed building Social Housing on the site. The City of Cape Town’s (CoCT‘s) own laws also put emphasis on finding solutions to the problem of rising housing prices. It is high time the City made a tangible commitment to developing more affordable housing for residents, both in the suburbs and the CBD. Our history, which gave us the legacy of apartheid, puts an added burden upon our government to prioritise the speedy change of the apartheid racial geography we see in our country not only for reasons of social justice, but also for security and for the greater good of human and economic development of all.
It is disheartening to see post-1994 municipalities across the country still indirectly promoting zoning ordinances that seek to limit multi-family (affordable) housing within city limits. Such policies, known as exclusionary zoning, have led to increased racial and social segregation, which a growing body of work indicates limit educational and employment opportunities for low-income households.
An increasing amount of data from urban development studies indicates that location matters just as much as income in determining a child’s likelihood of escaping poverty. Children from low-income families who move to more affluent suburbs are more likely to graduate from high school, attend four-year universities, and have jobs than their peers who stayed in the townships and rural areas. And cities that have made an effort to keep schools desegregated enjoy less race-based strife than peer cities that do not.
As such, Cape Town needs to take these steps if it wants to shed the title of highest social unrest city in the country – it is probably the city still most stubbornly retaining its apartheid geography and economy. Cities, like Cape Town, that do not strive explicitly to promote integration are likely to have the highest incidence of racial antagonism. It is already difficult in most of our cities’ suburbs to build affordable housing for poor people because of self-interested ‘Not In My Backyard’ attitudes. The selling of the Tafelberg site to developers of luxury housing would demonstrate to the poor of our city that the government is not on their side – at a time when we desperately need every tool we can use in the arsenal of civil rights action to make sure we live up to the aspiration of our Constitution for providing equal opportunities and ending discrimination.
The Justice and Peace Commission therefore does not accept the CoCT’s flawed argument that it makes economic sense to sell the Tafelberg land in order to raise capital for buying ‘more appropriate’ land for low-cost housing development elsewhere else, especially since that ‘elsewhere’ would probably be on the peripheries of the city, in places like Blikkiesdorp or Khayelitsha, far from quality amenities. The Justice and Peace Commission believes in particular that people should not have to live at great distances from their places of employment.
An independent feasibility study, conducted by the National Association of Social Housing Organisations (NASHO) in 2012, showed that affordable housing was both practically and financially viable on the Tafelberg site. Further government-supported research was done in 2013 and again showed that affordable housing on the site was viable. From this study the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements formally requested that the land be used for affordable housing, presenting a detailed case for why the site, and Sea Point in particular, is well-suited for social housing.
The site actually affords the CoCT an opportunity to reverse the apartheid spatial planning that continues insidiously today, through the largely unregulated property market. The poor, mainly black, living in the CoCT’s cosmopolitan areas such as Sea Point, are condemned to stay in ‘maid’s quarters’ – often completely unsuitable places such as store-rooms, basements, rooftops – or be expelled to the urban periphery.
Turning this site into a Social Housing project would be a good stepping-stone towards making Sea Point function outside of apartheid’s divisions, accessible to all social classes, races, religions and other groupings – not as visitors or commuting workers, but as residents. A Tafelberg Social Housing project would provide a tremendous opportunity to show, in Sea Point, an example of what can be achieved, and make Cape Town a more socially just and inclusive city. The Justice and Peace supports this initiative wholeheartedly.