Construction at Salt River site a long way to go

The Salt River Market site.

Communicare says construction at the Salt River Market site will likely take two years to get going, despite the project getting zoning approval earlier this month.

The project would see a mixed-use development on 1.7ha of City-owned land in Salt River.

It would include a 10-storey block of flats with social housing, affordable housing and high-end units, as well as a convenience store and recreational area.

The social housing non-profit company previously said it had spent the past four years working with the City to get the much-needed housing project off the ground (“Council to decide on Salt River site, Tatler, November 29, 2018).

The city council finally agreed, in December, to transfer the site that could deliver more than 820 affordable housing units to lower-income families.

Two months earlier, the council had delayed the transfer saying it needed clarity on some issues.

Communicare CEO Anthea Houston said the municipal planning tribunal had given zoning approval on Tuesday April 2, but it was subject to other City approval processes.

“Eleven land parcels still need to be consolidated, and agreements with other land owners, such as the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, will have to be finalised. These processes are outside of our control so we cannot confirm the date for the start of construction nor the expected completion date. Construction is unlikely to commence before March 2021,” she said.

Communicare will manage the entire complex once completed. This includes maintenance, rental agreements, security and all services provided to tenants.

Ms Houston said besides the Salt River Market development, Communicare was building 138 rental units at Musgrave Villas in Diep River and 314 social housing units at Bothasig Gardens.

The past weeks have been busy for Communicare: it has sacked staff accused of graft and raked in millions of rand from the sale of a building on prime Foreshore land.

Communicare dismissed the staff following an eight-month investigationinto alleged collusive practices between suppliers and staff.

The investigation found work by certain suppliers had not been completed satisfactorily; costs were inflated in some cases; five staff were complicit in either receiving payment from suppliers or may have assisted to inflate costs; one manager was negligent when allegations were brought to his attention; and, in some instances, tenant application processes had been manipulated.

Communicare also reported the alleged fraud to the police.

Ms Houston said she had a zero-tolerance approach to corruption.

“I promised decisive action against those found guilty to ensure justice is meted out. We have made significant progress to root out corruption and commit to our values of clean and accountable governance. I am pleased that the investigation is concluded.”

Ms Houston said she and senior management had been cleared of any wrongdoing, following a forensic investigation.

Communicare also recently sold its property of 28 years on Walter Sisulu Avenue for R120 million, saying the building had outlived its usefulness.

The building was purchased from the Foschini Group in the late 1980s for R300 000 and construction of the current building was completed in 1991 at a cost of about R10 million at the time.

The development was funded by Communicare and the Cape Joint Pension Fund in a joint venture.

“We considered all options for the best use of the site, including the development of mixed-use social housing. The cost of such a development on this particular land was prohibitive. The land was reclaimed from the sea and has a high water table. The cost of piling, foundations and de-watering would have made the development of low cost social housing on this site unaffordable,” said Ms Houston.

Communicare could now focus on its core business — providing housing and services to people in Cape Town who needed it most, she said.

“This is an exciting time for Communicare.

“We now have more options to gear our finances and fast-track certain developments.”