Apartheid spatial planning consigned the majority of SA citizens to settlements far away from work, where residents had access to limited services and opportunities.
Apart from creating a fragmented country, apartheid spatial planning was also characterised by little or no investment to stimulate economic activity in these settlements.
We must acknowledge that, to date, our efforts to radically transform the Country’s spatial reality to enable all of our residents to participate more equally in the local economy have fallen short.
The dire need for housing for our country’s most vulnerable households is the single biggest challenge we are facing today.
An estimate of approximately 650 000 families earning less than R13 000 a month will rely on social housing for some kind of housing assistance. This is partly as a result of unemployment, slow economic growth, and rapid urbanisation.
Furthermore, the Property Developers task is exacerbated by the unprecedented growth in the property market in areas close to key points of employment, and along public transport routes.
The said truth is, however, that inequality is worsened when these investments mostly benefit those who already have access to the free market economy and employment opportunities.
As much as we welcome the investment, there is an obligation on the private sector to ensure that the inner-cities and other central business districts are accessible and affordable to those who are still living below the bread line. This obligation stems from the commitment that is required from all of us to make SA an inclusive and liveable space where there is room for everyone, and where we share equal access to opportunities, regardless of race and income.
The Country must also mitigate against the displacement of residents, especially tenants in rental properties, who have lived their entire lives in suburbs where high-end developments are rising at a rapid pace because of the particular central business district (CBD).
When the Transport and Urban Development Authority was established on 1 January, it was said that the government must turn a corner in the approach to affordable housing and to bring about leverage in City-owned assets such as land and property to achieve spatial transformation to create an inclusive urban fabric.
A commitment must be made to do everything within governments means to expedite new housing developments that are inclusive and to ensure that housing opportunities for lower-income households are situated on well-located land, close to places of employment and social amenities.
Further, within its means, government must provide those who are facing emergency situations with safe, decent, and affordable temporary housing as close as possible to where they are working; or at least as close as possible to where they can get onto a bus, train or minibus-taxi.
Furthermore, why not take on the approach at the City of Cape Town’s very first inner-city transitional housing project in Salt River, less than 5 km from the Cape Town CBD. The proposed development of the Salt River site is only the first; there are more transitional housing projects in the pipeline – in Salt River, as well as in other areas in Cape Town. In fact, Cape Town officials are doing an audit of City-owned land parcels in Goodwood and Bellville.
The manner in which the rest of the Country’s government are approaching these developments does not represent an effective change in how the urgent demand for affordable and inclusionary housing in future will be confronted.
Importantly, the government should also apply an investment-like approach, where appropriate, in developing City-owned sites for housing opportunities.
In so doing, this will be signalling that affordable housing is not merely the provision of units to lower-income households, but a long-term investment in our urban fabric and form.
These developments must offer a mixture of affordable housing typologies, including social housing, combined with market-related housing (for those who can pay).
In essence, SA needs partners who are committed to addressing the critical need for housing. They must be obsessive about delivery and quality, and they must be willing to serve the beneficiaries of these projects with passion.
In conclusion, there are no quick fixes and change does not happen overnight, but there needs to be a start.