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Gentrification in Woodstock & Salt River: Answers from the City

Below are questions, which were sent to the City of Cape Town as part of research for the A Community in Crisis: Gentrification in Woodstock and Salt River  tour. The responses were too long to include in the audio tour in full, so we are posting them here for those who would like further details. There’s also a gentrification reading list here.  

In the City of Cape Town’s 2008 social housing progress report, it states that at least three sites in Woodstock and Salt River – Pickwick Road, Dillon Lane, and the Salt River Market – will be developed into social housing by 2011. Why haven’t they been completed yet?

Councillor Benedicta van Minnen, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements:

This has been an extremely complicated situation, primarily, as it involves the well-being of existing residents. As you will appreciate, a significant challenge in the precinct is how to deal with the low income, and indigent, households that are presently living in the area, usually in an informal manner. In some instances these households have lived in the area for many years. However, the existence of the informal housing is delaying the possible development of formal, affordable rental opportunities on some sites. This situation is, however, not only happening in this precinct but in other parts of the City’s Transport-Oriented Development corridors, such as in the metro south-east corridor, where the intent is to encourage medium and high density affordable rental developments.

It is therefore important to find solutions to this issue both in the interest of the households in the informal housing but also to free up sites for new formal affordable rental opportunities.

Before any construction can even begin, households must be convinced to temporarily relocate to free up the developable land in this area and  specifically to start with those individuals and households living on the land on Pine Road. Constant community engagement has been taking place over the years as there are many individual interests and wants at play. The City, however, must weigh up all of the interests, seek solutions and see how to create a situation that will be beneficial to the majority of the affected residents.

The City must, therefore, consider, among others:

  • the rights of individuals and households in terms of the Constitution
  • reducing, as far as possible, displacement from the area
  • providing short-term as well as medium-term options for affected individuals and households
  • eligibility of existing dwellers on the sites as potential beneficiaries, in accordance with the law and City policies
  • ensuring both the capital and operational viability of solutions
  • measures that will lead to the rapid release of land and buildings for affordable rental development
  • ensuring that households make a contribution in accordance with affordability based on agreed means testing

Once all of the considerations have been explored adequately, formal proposals will be taken to the affected parties for their input.

When will they be completed?

Councillor Benedicta van Minnen: 

The City would not wish to pre-empt any of its processes, especially targeted and broader public participation and community engagement. As a responsible government, we must communicate at the appropriate time and be careful to manage expectations.

When will the social housing project for Pine Road be completed?

Councillor Benedicta van Minnen:

The City would not wish to pre-empt any of its processes, especially targeted and broader public participation and community engagement. As a responsible government, we must communicate at the appropriate time and be careful to manage expectations.

How many social housing projects in total are planned for the areas of Woodstock and Salt River?

Councillor Benedicta van Minnen: 

At this stage, there are proposals for up to six projects over the medium- to long-term. Full feasibility and other considerations must be undertaken first. It must be born in mind that it would be impossible to only focus on the near inner-city areas of Cape Town central for inclusive housing. The need across the metro is pronounced and the City must consider the position of all of its residents across the metro in a fair and systematic manner, and by balancing various considerations.

Can you explain the advantages of the Urban Development Zone policy for Woodstock and Salt River residents?

Councillor Johan van der Merwe, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning:

It must be noted that each Urban Development Zone (UDZ) tax certificate is captured separately and not specifically in an area-based format. Information on the specific UDZ incentive impact on Woodstock and Salt River, therefore, cannot be readily extracted. This is a National Treasury incentive. According to the National Treasury’s Guide to the Urban Development Zone Tax Incentive (Issue 4): ‘South Africa has a number of urban areas that are impoverished and suffering from extensive urban decay. In order to address these concerns and maintain existing infrastructure, governments internationally have increasingly used tax measures to support efforts aimed at regenerating these urban areas.

‘In 2003, the Minister of Finance announced a tax incentive (the UDZ incentive) in the form of an accelerated depreciation allowance under section 13quat to promote investment in 16 designated inner cities, 15 of which now have demarcated UDZs within its boundaries. The core objectives of the incentive are to address dereliction and dilapidation in South Africa’s largest cities and to promote urban renewal and development by promoting investment by the private sector in the construction or improvement of commercial and residential buildings, including low-cost housing units, situated within demarcated UDZs. The UDZ incentive also intends to encourage investment in highly populated areas, central business districts or inner city environments and areas with existing urban transport infrastructure for trains, buses or taxis.’

The National Treasury would perhaps be able to assist with qualitative studies regarding the advantages of this incentive in the various designated areas.

It is sometimes argued that – because the UDZ encourages developers and new business owners to buy property in the area – it instigates evictions of long-term residents. What is your position on this?

Councillor Johan van der Merwe: 

The National treasury would perhaps be able to assist with qualitative studies regarding the consequence of this incentive in the various designated areas.

What is the City of Cape Town doing to mitigate or curb the wave of evictions that are currently happening in Woodstock and Salt River?

Alderman Ian Neilson, the City’s Executive Deputy Mayor and Mayoral Committee Member for Finance:

The City is in a unenviable position in that it cannot directly intervene in the private market. The Courts decide on matters of eviction and also, whether a local authority must or must not offer alternative temporary accommodation to affected persons of private evictions. If not ordered to do so, a local authority may of course use its discretion to explore whether it could provide any relief at all based on humanitarian grounds, but this would always be subject to following the law, Council policy and due process in general.

The Court considers every case on merit and within the legislative framework. This is evident from the substantial volume of case law that is available pertaining to this and other precedent-setting judgements. Considerations such as, if a landlord has made provision for alternative accommodation or availed financial aid, whether the tenants were in good standing or not (whether they have the ability to pay but refuse to do so considering their income bracket), the history of engagements between a tenant/occupier and a particular landlord and whether there are anti-social or illicit activities taking place at a particular property. As you probably understand, reference to ‘evictions’ are broad and does not take into account all of the variables that could be applicable to a certain situation. All of these variables would certainly also apply in the Woodstock/Salt River area.

Ways that the City enables relief to vetted low income and indigent residents in the area, would include rates rebates and indigent relief.

Rates rebates and indigent relief:

For instance, as at 30 June 2016, the below are the beneficiaries for the respective benefits in the area in question:

  Senior Citizens and disabled persons rates rebate Indigent beneficiaries based on Income
Area No. of Residential Properties Beneficiaries Beneficiaries
Salt River 1 989 77 4
Woodstock 4 967 273 18

 

Please note that the above information on indigent and rates rebate beneficiaries is only on the Woodstock and Salt River suburbs. In general, lower income property owners in the near inner-city areas, as is the case with the rest of the metro, are subsidised by the City in an effort to enable them to retain their homes if they qualify, among others. For instance, for this year, city-wide, we have budgeted rates rebates for qualifying property owners of approximately R1,4 billion. The discount is between 10% and 100%, depending on the circumstances.

Low-income households in addition receive a substantial package of social assistance. We have also budgeted approximately R1,1 billion for indigent relief with respect to payment of service charges for instance.

Social housing and eradicating apartheid-era spatial planning

Councillor Benedicta van Minnen: 

Secondly, Cape Town is facing unprecedented urban pressures which the City is trying to address through innovative urban management policies and practices and responsible and inclusive development and planning policies. We are also trying to find ways of mitigating the well-known and often constraining geographical and topographical characteristics of our metro.

Over the past 10 years, the City has been developing a vision for responsible, inclusive development in all urban centres around the metro. However, it has become clear that one method alone of affordable housing delivery will not meet the demand in Cape Town. Currently, we have more than 300 000 applications on our database, and it is clear that City-enabled but partner-driven solutions are the way forward.

A successful strategy has to look wider than the central Cape Town area and cannot rely on State-sponsored housing initiatives only. The City is therefore actively promoting the provision of social housing by the private sector and housing companies. City-wide we have budgeted approximately R230 million in this financial year for social housing projects across the metro through our People’s Housing Process which is City-enabled but community-driven.

Apart from our desire to explore more affordable near-inner city housing projects, we are also concentrating on making sure that affordable State- and private sector or community-driven projects are increasingly better located.

The City has been doing considerable work to eradicate the legacy and effects of apartheid-era spatial planning, such as enhancing access to transport, ensuring that new formal settlements are developed near employment opportunities where possible and also close to community facilities. All of the City’s efforts are geared toward inclusive development – to enable all of the people of Cape Town to take part in economic and social opportunities.

A key intervention to transform the metro over the next decades is the Transit-Oriented Development Strategic Framework which, among others, seeks to improve the location of future residential areas for all income groups in relation to economic and work opportunities. This will hold substantial benefits for lower-income households who spend a higher proportion of their income on transport. If employment opportunities exist closer to their residences, their travel costs will be substantially reduced. A focus on integrated, mixed-use developments is therefore gaining momentum.

 

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