#Tafelberg Site

For more site specific information on the pieces of land known collectively as Tafelberg see this video.

Current use of the sites
Tafelberg is located on 355 Main Road in the heart of Sea Point and consists of two adjacent plots of land, erf 1424 & erf 1675 which together make up almost an entire city block at 1.7 ha’s (almost two rugby fields of prime real estate). Erf (1424) houses a vacant block of flats called Wynyard Mansions which once contained 12 subsidised rental units. The previous tenants were either uprooted and transferred to far away Pelican Park or evicted if they were in arrears.The larger erf (1675) contains the historic Ellerslie Girl’s School Building. This building was used by the Tafelberg Remedial School until 2010 when the school moved to a larger premises and the site and has been vacant since.

Is affordable housing suitable for Sea Point?
Sea Point is more than just a residential suburb. It contains a rich mixture of land uses with commercial, retail, residential and public spaces close to each other.Spatial planning, housing and environmental laws call for more integrated and compact cities which bring people closer to jobs and other opportunities.

Sea Point Main Road is a leading example of a development corridor – it supports a dense urban environment with many tall buildings as well as a vibrant local economy. It is supported by excellent public transport and other infrastructure and services.The radical increase in property values in Sea Point over recent years calls for government to use the land it has at its disposal to ensure there are some affordable units available to poor and working class people. Not only is this considered best practice in many leading cities around the world, it’s vital given that Cape Town is one of the most segregated cities in the world.

Is the site not zoned exclusively for education?
Tafelberg is zoned for intense development. According to the Notice of Disposal issued by Province the site is zoned General Business 5 and General Residential 4. General Business 5 allows for a maximum building height of 25m (around eight stories & General Residential 4 allows for a maximum height of 24m. In fact Provincial government’s own development concept in 2013 included residential, office, retail, commercial and public open space on the site. See the City’s zoning viewer for more details.

Can the site be developed if it is a heritage site?
A Heritage Impact Assessment conducted in 2012 explains that the historic school building and the Cape Fig avenue along the Main Road entrance cannot be demolished but that the rest of the site is suitable for development. These heritage assets make up approximately 30% of the site.

Is the site suitable for development?
In 2012 Province commissioned an Urban Design Report which proposed developing the site largely for residential use (62 per cent of the 19,516 sqm of permissible bulk), but there could also be commercial office (26 per cent) and retail (12 per cent) components. The land use mix would generate a parking demand of 435 parking bays, accommodated on site with the provision of 12,467 sqm of basement and 577 sqm of landscaped parking. See images below and here.

Why is the securing the Tafelberg site for affordable housing so important?
Cape Town’s current urban form is defined by a spatial dislocation between established economic hubs and mostly black & coloured working class residents who live on the Cape Flats and beyond. Despite the fact that we have progressive legislation and policy aimed at addressing issues of spatial justice little has been achieved in terms of implementing the ‘inclusive city’. The issue is simply a lack of political will.

Many opponents to affordable housing on the Tafelberg site cite the high value of the land as the key reason why the site is inappropriate. This is a mistake. The high value of the site, in fact presents exciting opportunities to include market led development on portions of the site which can cross subsidize the affordable housing element and in this way minimize the burden carried by the state and the taxpayer.    

What are some of the options available to ensure  affordable housing on the site?
There are many options available to ensure that affordable housing is created on the site. The development could be lead by the public sector the private sector or a mixture between the two. Units could be built both for the open market and for qualifying beneficiaries (mixed income housing) and there could be a mix of rental and freehold tenure options. The high demand for land in the area opens up unique possibilities for innovative on-site cross-subsidization between commercial and social uses. Province could release the land to a private developer, preferably a long term lease, at a discounted rate and include conditions that a certain number of affordable housing units are created on the site.

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What is Social Housing?
Social Housing is just one of the housing instruments available to Provincial Government. It is  creature of  the the Social Housing Act and is governed by its regulations. Social Housing refers only to rental units which are developed and managed by an authorized Social Housing Institutions (SHI’s) such as Communicare , Madulammoho Housing Assocation and SOHCO usually on land owned by the state and leased out long term or sold at a discounted price.

Is affordable rental housing on Tafelberg feasible?
In 2012 the National Association of Social Housing Organisations (NASHO) and the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) carried out a feasibility study for the site. It recommended that the existing school building be used as a retirement village and the front portion of the site contain retail, commercial and residential space with a small park.These could cross subsidize three – four story social housing apartments on the rest of the site. With a parking ratio of 0.25 bays per unit, which is feasible given the excellent access to public transport and in-line with policy to reduce reliance on private vehicle usage, it would would yield 341 affordable housing units.

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What is affordable rental housing?
Affordable housing is state subsidized rental stock that is managed by either the state or the private sector. Rent is calculated as a proportion of the tenant’s income and beneficiaries must fall within a specific income bracket, currently R1500 – R3500 p/m (primary target market) and R3500 – R7500 p/m (secondary target market).

What are the advantages of affordable rental housing?
Land can be long term leased to a Social Housing Institution (private NPO registered in terms of the Social Housing Act) which develops the site and manages the units, or the state can manage the units. Either way the state retains an appreciating asset. Social housing subsidies go to the rental unit, not to individuals, creating a rolling stock with multiple beneficiaries. A recent study showed that over the lifetime of a 30 year lease a unit can have as many as seven beneficiaries. Rent collected from tenants goes towards recouping capital costs & paying for maintenance of the units & communal spaces. Leading urban economists agree that bringing working class people closer to jobs makes for a more resilient and efficient economy. It also provides working class people with the flexible tenure option of renting.  People staying in social housing can still qualify for  housing on the waiting list.

Will affordable housing negatively affect surrounding property prices?
No. This type of housing utilizes urban practice best practice. Quality finishes and materials are used and the higher capital cost of this type of subsidized housing is justified because the long term environmental, social and economic costs of housing on the periphery are avoided.

Furthermore, Social Housing Institutions are tasked with maintaining the housing stock in perpetuity. The organizations which are active in Cape Town have a great track record with managing rental stock, including high occupancy and payment rates.

Indeed one of the great ironies of the argument that Social Housing will lower surrounding property prices is the fact that many blocks of flats in Sea Point already house lower income tenants – often in poorly maintained back rooms. It is not clear why offering vastly improved accommodation for the same profile of tenants in the area would necessarily result in a slump in property prices


Drommedaris in Brooklyn is a leading example of a successful social housing development in Cape Town. The complex contains rent and freehold units.