ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS A SERIOUS ISSUE, IT IS THEREFORE WRONG TO LIE AND PLAY GAMES WITH THE AVAILABILITY OF LAND.

A GOOD Speech by Patricia de Lille, GOOD Party Leader

27 September 2021

Access to housing, especially well-located affordable housing, is a serious issue. 

In fact, in 2017 the City estimated that approximately 650 000 families will rely on government for some kind of assistance for housing by 2032.

The shortage of affordable housing is a painful reality for hundreds of thousands of families who are forced to live in overcrowded and undignified conditions.

The current DA government is using the excuse that they are not able to build affordable housing in well located areas because they are waiting for land to be released by national government.  This is the big blue lie we are exposing today.

They are not serious about providing housing to the poor because no politician, who truly cares about the pain and vulnerability of those who live so precariously with the real risk of being completely homeless, would play the kind of dangerous and childish games about access to public land that we have witnessed this past week.

GOOD supports the release of public land for public good – for the purposes of addressing the housing crisis. 

Public land, held on behalf of the people of this country by national government, provincial government and local government, must be used for public good.

This is a responsibility that all of our governments share.

I call on the public, and the media, to hold all three spheres of government to account.  Before the coming local government elections, all governments and state-owned enterprises must account for what they have done.

Land reform and spatial justice depends on the release of state-owned land in the custodianship of all three spheres of government and state owned entities.

We will be able to speed up land reform if all the state-owned entities and governments put their land into one pot because the land owned by national government alone is not enough to achieve land reform.

Release of military land for housing purposes in Cape Town.

As you know, civil society has long regarded the large military bases in our City as holding huge potential for spatial integration and mixed-income housing, including affordable housing.

As GOOD, we support these calls by civil society that the use of large pieces of land, in the core of our City, for military purposes be reassessed and that the land or portions of it be made available for housing.

Soon after my appointment as Minister for Public Works and Infrastructure, being the Minister responsible for public land that is not being used by government, I convened a meeting and site visits with the Ministers of Defence and Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development to assess the potential of these sites to be used for housing purposes.

I have thus actioned the call I made as the Mayor of Cape Town to make this land available for housing and the Department of Defence has commenced the assessment of their operational requirements for the land in question.  This work begun months ago.

Release of Acacia Park for housing purposes.

It is the highly convoluted proposal, by the DA Mayoral Candidate for Cape Town, that the parliamentary village be released for housing purposes that illustrates that these are not serious proposals. 

They are the kind of cruel and immature games that come with a lack of experience.

Our national parliament is homed in Cape Town as a legacy of colonial and apartheid South Africa with Parliament in Cape Town and the Executive in Pretoria.

The housing at Acacia Park is intended for those members of parliament who do not live in Cape Town but are required to be here for their legislative and oversight tasks.

If the DA has a proposal to do away with state provided housing for public office-bearers then this must be tabled with the appropriate authority. 

In the case of the National Assembly, this would be the Speaker of Parliament.  I am not in a position to terminate this arrangement and evict the MPs who use these homes.

As far as I can see, the call for the termination of this housing is not accompanied by an alternative proposal for housing the majority of the members of parliament, and NCOP, who do not live in Cape Town but who must attend sittings and committee meetings here.

The DA has 84 members of parliament – 60 of whom are allocated a home in one of the parliamentary villages.

So far, it’s only Mr Hill-Lewis who requested his lease be terminated – but he in any event lives in Cape Town.

I am not sure if Hill-Lewis had a mandate to make this proposal. Some of his colleagues have reached out to me to say they were not consulted and do not want to lose their Cape Town accommodation.

Western Cape provides free housing to its Premier and MECs.

We can in any event tell that this is not a serious proposal because the DA is in government in the Western Cape where their MECs, who do not have a home within 50km of Cape Town, are entitled to live in fully furnished provincial housing free of charge. 

They also benefit from the services of domestic workers (including all the cleaning supplies) and gardening services at the state’s expense.

From 2009 to 2019 DA Federal Chairperson, Helen Zille, who owned a home in Cape Town, lived in the Leeuwenhof, the official residence of the Premier of the Western Cape.  Similarly, Premier Alan Winde lives in Leeuwenhof despite having owned a home in Cape Town before being elected Premier in 2019.

Leeuwenhof is situated in the heart of Gardens on 57500sqm of land and is valued at R154 million.

If the DA is serious about public office bearers relinquishing their state-provided housing, they have not demonstrated this where they govern.

This proposal is clearly STUPID.

Provincial Land that is available.

I have access to the Western Cape Provincial Property Immovable Asset Register which lists more than 450 vacant properties in the custody of the Provincial Government.

It would be irresponsible of me to release the details of these properties.

However, some of these properties are detailed in the “Central City Regeneration Programme” released by the Provincial Government in 2011 by former MEC Robin Carlisle.

That plan, now a decade old, claimed that it wanted to “Achieve densification by developing a percentage of the residential stock for affordable housing” using Provincial public land. 

Ten years later and not a single residential unit has been delivered, let alone a single affordable housing unit.

This programme identified a number of inner-city sites for re-development including:

  • The Dorp Street Precinct – which includes a City centre block bordered by Loop, Dorp, Leeuwen and Bree Street with current development potential of 25 852 sqm.
  • The Government Garage Precinct – which included at least 30 000 sqm of vacant land right here in the City centre.
  • The Prestwich Precinct in De Waterkant – which included a 5500sqm site for re-development.

The Tafelberg School site in Sea Point is the perfect example of how a DA government avoids using land it already has control of for affordable housing. 

Both the Province and the City are still fighting to appeal the judgment that found them to have acted unconstitutionally, and unlawfully, when the Province sold the abandoned Tafelberg school site instead of using it for affordable housing.

If they were serious about using public land for affordable housing, they would have demonstrated this by now using any of the more than 450 vacant parcels of land they have control over.

If they were serious, we would have seen development on the Dorp Street site, at Government Garage and on the Tafelberg School sites.

But these are nothing but cruel empty promises.

The City of Cape Town has thousands of land parcels ready to be used for housing.

The claim that the City cannot provide affordable housing because it has a shortage of land is a lie.  When I was Mayor, I requested a land audit.  The Property Management department found 3000 properties it didn’t even know the City owned.

In 2017 we identified 11 parcels of land in Woodstock, Salt River and the Inner City for affordable housing purposes.

I, assisted by Brett Herron (then Mayco Member of Transport and Urban Development), started by releasing 5 sites by way of a call for proposals. Each of the five sites has a threshold of social housing that had to be met by the private developer.

These sites were located at:

  • Roeland Street (where we are today);
  • Pickwick Street in Salt River;
  • Woodstock Hospital;
  • A public open space adjacent to the Woodstock Hospital;
  • New Market Street, a site next to the Good Hope Centre currently being used as a parking lot.

This inner-city housing project was the genesis of our fall-out with the DA who were heavily opposed to it.

We resigned at the end of October 2018 and the DA led City of Cape Town cancelled the projects two months later.

Not a single site has broken ground.  They should be bustling construction sites today – creating thousands of housing opportunities to mitigate the impact of gentrification.

We also planned to build social housing in Pine Road and the Pine Road project hasn’t broken ground either.

These were simply a few of the sites we identified for mixed-income, mixed-use, higher-density development, including affordable housing.

But there were others like the land we bought in Paardevlei and the farm we bought in Annandale for Dunoon’s expansion – to name just a few.

In 2016 we released 6 hectares of land in and around the unfinished Foreshore Freeways.  We made the 6 hectares of land available for development with the conditions that the development included a transport solution and affordable housing.

Despite several exciting proposals this project was also cancelled.  Today, it is the subject of litigation as developers who spent millions of rand on preparing their proposals challenge the legality of the cancellation of the tender.

Let me be clear, these are just a handful of City-owned sites that we identified for affordable housing.  We also proposed participating in the C40 carbon-neutral development programme being championed by the Mayor of Paris. 

In that proposal we included several City owned sites for development, including affordable housing.  One of the most prominent of these was the giant parking lot right next to the Civic Centre.  This proposal was also rejected by the DA caucus.

GOOD policy of “public land for public good” is the best and only way forward.

Public land belongs to all the people of South Africa.  And, public land in the City of Cape Town must be used for public good.  The most pressing need is an abundance of affordable well-located housing.

We demonstrated in 2017 with our two calls for proposals: the Inner-City Housing Project and the Foreshore Freeway Project, how well-located public land can be leveraged for affordable housing as well as other public goods like transport infrastructure.

The DA has been in government for long enough to demonstrate whether their promise of  using public land for integration and housing purposes is real.

These were the polices that I wanted to implement as the Mayor of the City of Cape Town but the DA did not like it.  Therefore, I left.

They did not implement their Provincial City Centre Regeneration Programme (released ten years ago), they sold off Tafelberg School, and they cancelled all of our City’s affordable housing projects.

This illustrates that they are blue liars.

They expect me as a Minister to fix in two years all of their failures over 15 years of government.

But, I am going to show them that with or without the DA, we are going to integrate the City of Cape Town and therefore I am in the process of releasing Customs House, right here in the City Centre, to be repurposed for affordable housing.

With or without the DA we will bring our people back closer to work opportunities.

As residents, voters and the media we should be scratching below the surface of obviously empty promises and dishonest claims and interrogating the claims that affordable housing is held hostage by a shortage of land. 

The fourth estate is there to hold government to account.  I challenge the fourth estate to not just write, and accept, politicians claiming that they don’t have land but ask them to provide access to their immovable asset register so the media can interrogate these claims.

There is no shortage of land for well-located affordable housing in the City of Cape Town.

A government that is serious about implementing affordable housing would get on with it, using land already in their custody instead of lying that they are waiting for national government to release land.

As GOOD, we are calling on Capetonians to lend us their vote for 5 years so that we can get into the City and fix the sorry mess that has been created by the Democratic Alliance.

The City of Cape Town belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity, and we should all be able to live, work and play in the City of Cape Town.

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