Social housing delayed, again

Former mayoral committee member Suzette Little has accused Ward 115 councillor Dave Bryant of colluding with DA caucus members to block the release of land in Salt River for the development of housing for lower income families.

This comes after the project was again referred back to council on Thursday October 25, – ostensibly to deal with technical issues.

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

It would include a high-rise block of flats, which would consist of social housing, affordable housing and high-end units, as well as a convenience store and recreational area.

Ms Little, former Mayco member for area- north, and four other DA councillors resigned during the full council sitting at which this issue was discussed.

“There has been a sustained campaign to oppose attempts to reverse apartheid spatial planning, and providing housing in good parts of the city for our people,” Ms Little said in a statement released to the media. “I was disgusted that the disposal of the Salt River Market site that was promised to be released for the development of housing for hundreds of lower income families that desperately need it was blocked in this week’s DA caucus meeting.”

Social housing non-profit company Communicare said they had spent the past four years working with the City to get the much-needed housing project off the ground, but all efforts had been in vain as the City “continued to stall” the project.

Communicare CEO Anthea Houston said they had submitted a “high level” conceptual development plan for the site to the City in March 2014 and that the City had asked Communicare to model a development that was mixed use, high density with at least 30% social housing.

Ms Houston said the City had agreed to release the land at 10% of market value to help cross-subsidise the development as the government grants would be insufficient to build the housing.

“The mixed-use concept resonated with us. This is considered best practice and would be sustainable in the long run,” said Ms Houston.

Mr Bryant, however, has refuted claims that he tried to block the project from going ahead, saying the decision to refer the item back for one month was purely a procedural one and was not uncommon in meetings of council.

“The allegation that I ‘colluded’ with other councillors to ‘block’ the proposal is completely ridiculous. The proposal has not been blocked in any way by myself or any other councillor; it has merely been sent back for more information,” he said.

“Councillors had some questions around the report and have asked for these to be clarified. Officials in the TDA (Transport and Urban Development Authority) directorate are already engaging to address the queries, and these should be resolved before the next month.”

Mr Bryant said there had also been questions raised about the valuation of the 13 sites as two valuations had been included on the report.

“One valuation valued the sites at R18 million and the other at R114 million. This was due mainly to the original valuation not including the potential for increased bulk on the site. The recommendation is to release the sites to the service provider for 10% of the valuation which is not in dispute by any members of the caucus. Council has simply requested more time to consider the report,” he said.

Ms Houston said they were all set to go ahead with the project but needed the City to confirm whether they would release the land or not.

“We can’t do anything on the land until we sign an agreement with the City. We don’t understand why this is taking so long,” she said.

Helen Rourke, the manager of the Development Action Group (DAG), an NGO with a focus on housing, described the council’s decision to delay the release of the Salt River Market site as deeply disappointing and worrisome.

“The City needs to make a clear and decisive decision on how they use their urban land as a social asset and give expression to their developmental agenda by opening up the space for households of mixed incomes to jointly participate in the regeneration of the inner city neighbourhoods of Woodstock and Salt River.

“It is exceptionally unfortunate and concerning as this project proposal has been in the pipeline for years. This project proposal is unprecedented in the country – if it were to go ahead, it would result in a mixed-income rental development of 30% social housing units for low-income households earning below R15 000 a month, another 14% units for the gap market with moderate incomes and the balance being rented on the open market,” she said.

Ms Rourke said the project would set a new standard for integrated and sustainable city developments and practically demonstrate the City’s intent to reverse the historical economic exclusion from the inner city.

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