Social housing plan rubber-stamped

The Salt River Market site has been approved for rezoning.

After a lengthy process, the City has approved the rezoning application for the Salt River Market site, which paves the way for a mixed-used development that will include 216 social-housing units.

This decision comes six years after Communicare responded to the City’s bid to develop the site.

Earlier this year, the social housing non-profit company said the site would likely take two years to get going. This after the city council agreed in December to transfer the site, after council had delayed the transfer two months earlier, saying it needed clarity on some issues (“Construction at Salt River site a long way to go,”Tatler, April 25).

The project will see a mixed-use development on 1.7 hectares of City-owned land in Salt River. It will 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.

Malusi Booi, mayoral committee member for human settlements, visited the site on Sunday August 18, after the Planning Appeals Advisory Committee supported a decision by the Municipal Planning Tribunal to approve the rezoning application after dismissing two appeals.

Mr Booi said the rezoning consolidated 13 erven. The developer now has five years to act on the rights that have been obtained. This includes the construction of buildings between 25 and 38m in height with the inclusion of a carriageway to allow for street parking on Bromwell Street and access from Foundry Road.

The approved rezoning application will provide for 723 residential units of which 216 will be social housing opportunities for qualifying beneficiaries as well as business premises and informal trading and 119 parking bays. Applicants earning more than R3 500 and less than R20 000 a month are eligible.

Mr Booi said this step affirmed the City’s pledge to driving more affordable and social housing opportunities around Cape Town’s city centres on suitable sites.

Communicare CEO Anthea Houston said the rezoning paved the way for a ground-breaking mixed-use development.

“The built form of the landmark Salt River hall will be preserved, acknowledging the history of the site. The surrounding area will, however, be transformed into a safer vibrant public space, providing improved access to the Salt River station. The new development will integrate social housing with gap housing, recreational areas and economic activity in the form of retail stores and informal trading,” she said.

Ms Houston said the development was also well aligned with the City’s Table Bay District Plan which earmarked the Salt River Market and surrounding area for mixed use development and which had densification along public transport routes, spatial restructuring, integration and mixed use development as some of its principles.

“It is a small step towards addressing the huge backlog of affordable housing for residents of Cape Town. In our city, households with steady incomes, even up to R28 000 per month, struggle to buy houses and therefore need to rent. The proposed development will make a difference for everyone,” she said.

As for the next steps, Mr Booi said the project would need spatial development approval and then the drawing up and approval of building plans

“These processes happen in parallel and include the detailed design of the development, funding applications, the process to release the land and the procurement of the contractor, among others,” he said.

During his resignation last year, former transport and urban development Mayco member Brett Herron alleged that there was a “cabal of white DA councillors” who were blocking the development (“City denies delaying Salt River housing project,” Tatler, November 2).

Now a Good party member, Mr Herron has welcomed the approval of the application, saying it is a small step towards providing some social housing in the inner city.

“The disposal of the Salt River Market site to Communicare for a mixed use, mixed income affordable housing project was initially blocked by the DA in October 2018. They reversed their decision, following huge public pressure, in December 2018. I welcome the announcement by mayor Dan Plato,” he said.

Mr Herron said he had resigned from the DA and from council over the DA’s initial resistance to this development and the decision to withdraw the project from the council agenda in October 2018.

“This is a step in the right direction. However, it is a very small step. We are facing a housing deficit crisis across all income groups, and last week’s cancellation of the affordable housing projects on five sites identified in Woodstock, Salt River and the city centre is a major set-back to the urgent need to address this crisis. In this context, the announcement about the Salt River Market site’s rezoning is clearly an attempt to mitigate the devastating blow to the affordable housing cause and to lend the appearance of a government that is acting on the housing crisis,” he said.