DA shamed into Doing About Turn

STATEMENT BY BRETT HERRON, FORMER MAYCO MEMBER FOR TRANSPORT & URBAN DEVELOPMENT, CITY OF CAPE TOWN

DA SHAMED INTO DOING AN ABOUT-TURN ON THE SALT RIVER AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROJECT.

Public and activist pressure has led the DA into reversing its October decision to block the disposal of the Salt River Market site to Communicare. But, the DA retains a perversely anti-transformational attitude towards public land holdings. They continue to block integrated housing developments on sites in well-located area like the city centre and Plumstead, but are happy to support Cape Flats sites in locations like Delft and Bishop Lavis.

Today the DA did what I predicted. After I publicly exposed their vague and shifting objections to disposing land for subsidised state housing, they reversed their October decision to block an affordable housing project on the Salt River Market site.

Salt River and Woodstock are experiencing significant gentrification pressures and my team was constantly delayed or prevented from mitigating the impact of this development trend.

There is a growing crisis of evictions taking place in this neighbourhood and the DA was exposed as lacking the leadership and the courage to champion and defend spatial transformation.

I welcome the reversal of that decision. Public land must be used for public good. I note that in an attempt to save face the DA claim that the percentage of social housing units has been increased. When the project was first planned it was to provide 851 rental units in total. It would be more useful to know what the impact of the inflated land value and the renegotiated project means in terms of the total number of units on the site.

If the project continues to provide rental units for a good mix of incomes and at the scale that was initially planned that must be welcomed. However, one project alone will not solve the housing crisis.

As I said at the time, my resignation was not based on the blocking of one project. Shamefully, the DA are still blocking other critical projects to provide well-located housing.

Amongst the projects blocked by the same DA cabal is the proposed development of the vast, and under-utilised, parking lot alongside the Civic Centre. Late last year, and as a member of the C40 cities, we agreed to participate in an international call for sustainable carbon-neutral development proposals on city- owned under-developed sites.

Our involvement would have permitted local and international best practices in water and energy efficient urban development to permeate the development industry through a project that would also provide affordable inner city housing.

We identified the parking lot for a mixed use development that would include affordable and GAP housing, office space and basement parking for the City’s fleet. However, just as with the Salt River Market site - when the item came up for discussion at the DA caucus, the ward councillor, Dave Bryant, spoke out against the project.

He requested that the recommendation be withdrawn from the council agenda and be referred to the sub-councils for comment. The recommendation was withdrawn and referred to the sub-councils. Bryant’s sub- council returned a recommendation that the development not go ahead.

The parking lot is well-located alongside the main MyCiTi bus station, the station- deck mini-bus taxi rank, the Cape Town station and nearby the Golden Arrow terminus at Golden Acre. The refusal by the sub-council to support the redevelopment of that site which would include inner-city affordable housing is indefensible.

There were other sites recommended to Council for participation in the same C40 Reimagining Cities Carbon Neutral development projects. A site in Plumstead, on the corner of Main Road and Kendal Road, close to jobs, 200m from a rail station and well served by other public transport was also blocked.

This is an extremely well-located under-utilised open space along a busy main road. Ideal for this kind of development. DA ward councillor Carol Bew opposed the development and her sub-council also returned a recommendation refusing to support the project.

Interestingly though, one of the projects recommended as part of this international programme was a site in Bishop Lavis. Bishop Lavis is an apartheid suburb on the Cape Flats created under the Group Areas Act for coloured people. In the case of the Bishop Lavis site the project was enthusiastically supported.

The DA’s attitude to well-located high value public land is flawed and suspicious. The fact that a parking lot in the City Centre and a piece of open ground in the Southern Suburbs – sites in traditionally white neighbourhoods - would not be made available for development that would integrate communities and provide well-located affordable housing was shocking to me.

The support for the mixed use development proposal on the Cape Flats site in Bishop Lavis demonstrates that the DA is deeply conflicted about racial integration and spatial transformation and that it actively works to protect racial exclusivity.

Where people live matters and the new decision on Salt River is a tiny point of relief after more than a decade of complete failure to address segregation and exclusion.