A Just Vision for Tafelberg

Here, Ndifuna Ukwazi publishes a visionary model for a social housing development on the Tafelberg site that will provide more homes at less cost while still providing Province with a significant cash injection from the sale of the land. This is a win for poor and working class people, a win for Province, and an affordable precedent that Cabinet cannot reasonably decline.

In November 2016, the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works, published its model which demonstrated that in principle social housing is feasible and affordable on the Tafelberg site. It proposed a mixed-use development with 270 Social Housing units, a public park and space for shops, leaving the old school building for community use.

But social housing experts reviewed the model and found the numbers didn’t add up. In effect, Province hasn’t taken into consideration the sites greatest value – the cross-subsidisation potential of its location. This means the private sector can pay more into the pot, which will reduce the bill for government and allow more units and greater sustainability over the life of the buildings.

Today we publish our submission to Province, which demonstrates that 297 social housing apartments can be built on the site if they are subsidised by a development on Main Road with shops and 86 market rate apartments. Not only would Province secure 27 more social housing units and build the first mixed-income housing in the inner city, but the model would provide provision with a whopping R72 million cash payment for the land. That is over half the price the Province intended to strip the land for with no social benefit.

In fact, if Province takes full advantage of the generous zoning on the site and builds up to 7 floors, 121 market rate apartments would cross-subsidise 316 social housing units and generate R76 million for the cost of the land.

Both scenarios protect the heritage of the old school building, which may be leased or sold for use as school or for another community use. Both reserve a portion of the site as public green space to be enjoyed by all residents.

What is perhaps most promising about this alternative is that it presents a blueprint for a truly mixed-used site which maximises cross-subsidisation of affordable housing in a high-income area. This is unprecedented in South African cities. We believe that this model could be applied to unlock highly valuable public land for affordable housing – from Sea Point to Sandton. In so doing, we can begin to desegregate our cities.

Premier Helen Zille and Provincial Cabinet are set to decide on the future of the Tafelberg site at a cabinet meeting on 22 March. Although various cabinet ministers have expressed opinions and preferences it all comes down to the evidence on feasibility. Legally, well-located land can never be surplus and sold when it is feasible to use it for service delivery.

She will now have to consider the thousands of objections to the sale of Tafelberg and this model for a truly visionary and just alternative for the site and make a reasonable decision that can stand up in court having taken into account all the arguments and evidence.
We believe that Cabinet is on the the brink of an unprecedented decision: to begin dismantling apartheid spatial design. Considering the powerful vested interests in well-located public land, that will take political will and leadership. We believe that they will do the right thing.


A detailed three part submission was made in response to the financial model produced by the Department of Transport and Public Work’s for social rental housing at the Tafelberg site.

Part One of this submission detailed the concept of spatial justice and how it applies to the disposal of Tafelberg. It also outlines why the original disposal is unlawful.

Part Two is a critique of the existing financial model which was compiled by the Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW).

Part Three proposes an alternative development proposal for the site with two development scenarios which are discussed below. The financial details displayed are only a snapshot of a complex financial model that was produced with the assistance of number of experts in the field. For a better understanding of the site as it is currently see here.

This alternative spells out a just vision for Tafelberg that could be replicated on other pieces of high-value state owned land from Sea Point to Sandton. The proposal is based on the legislated principle of spatial justice and is supported by the principle of cross-subsidisation to ensure financial sustainability.


Scenario 1 – Four storey walk up social housing

Scenario 1 main view

• 297 social housing rental units and 89 market residential sectional title units
• Total construction cost is: R389,552,475
• Total social housing construction cost is: R176,652,435
• Total sectional title residential construction cost is: R179,116,908
• Average cost of social housing units is: R428,697
• Residual land cost per social housing unit: R 134 609
• SHI Capital reserve (kept in reserve for long-term maintenance/ renovations R10,737,832
• Land Payment to province is: R72,000,000

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Scenario 2 – medium rise social housing

Scenario 2 main view
• 316 social housing rental units and 121 market residential sectional title units
• Total construction cost is: R389,552,475
• Total social housing construction cost is: R176,652,435
• Total sectional title residential construction cost is: R179,116,908
• Average social housing unit cost is: R594,989
• Residual land cost per social housing unit: R 178 603
• SHI Capital reserve:  R17,665,243
• Province Land Payment is: R76 million

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