Social housing projects gain momentum

Pine Road in Woodstock has been earmarked for a social-housing development.

The city council has given approval for two proposed social-housing projects, which could deliver more than 700 dwellings for low-income families in the city centre, to go out for public comment.

The one is at the Pickwick site in Salt River where the plan is to build a 1 800-unit development with 600 of the units being for social housing.

The other site is in Newmarket Street, in central Cape Town, where 365 mixed-market units and 165 social-housing units are planned.

Meanwhile, construction is expected to start soon on the Dillon Lane and Pine Road social-housing projects in Woodstock.

Speaking in council, mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said the City had more than 6 500 social-housing units in the pipeline across 50 land parcels citywide. This includes 2 000 social-housing units in the central Cape Town area and a further 2 500 opportunities – either in the construction phase or close to it – along the Voortrekker Road Corridor and near important economic nodes.

Mr Hill-Lewis said the City was intent on making land more quickly available for social housing, identifying large mixed-use sites for private-sector development, unlocking the potential of micro-developers, and making it easier to get plans passed for affordable housing.

The social-housing company, Sohco, had submitted plans for the Pine Road development on Friday May 20 and construction could start within a few months, with tenants moving in by late 2023 or early 2024, he said.

And construction could start within a year on the Dillon Lane project, which is set to deliver 150 social housing units, he said.

“Both the site development plan and building plan approvals can be completed within 2022. We will be pushing to get this done in the earliest time frame possible,” said Mr Hill-Lewis.

In 2019, Sohco and the City struck a deal to develop 243 flats – a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two bedroom units in two- and four-storey blocks – in Pine Road, for families with a monthly income under R15 000, but development stalled in 2020 due to lockdown (“Lockdown stalls Pine Road housing project,” Thursday October 15, 2020).

Sohco CEO Heather Maxwell said they had now managed to secure the last of the outstanding financing for the Pine Road development and they were ready to put the project out to tender.

The site has been vacant since May 2019 when Pine Road families moved into the R11 million Pickwick transitional housing facility in Salt River, which provides short-term accommodation for the families who lived at the Pine Road site.

Ndifuna Ukwazi said it welcomed and supported council’s approval to advertise the release of the Pickwick and New Market Street sites but added it would continue to monitor the progress of the long-awaited developments.

“While this is a positive step in the right direction, we will monitor the development of these sites as we are well aware that in almost five years since the 11 sites were committed for social and affordable housing, only the Pickwick transitional housing facility for 19 families has actually been built. We demand that the City takes a radical and urgent approach and have the political will to address its staggering 370 000 housing backlog,” said researcher Robyn Park-Ross.

In a statement, Good party secretary-general Brett Herron said they were encouraged by the City’s about-turn on the development of affordable housing on well-located parcels of publicly-owned land in the inner-city.

“The two sites were among five identified for mixed-use and mixed-income development by the administration of former mayor Patricia de Lille in 2017. The City’s DA caucus vehemently resisted the developments, which led to De Lille and myself resigning from the City.

“We welcome the development of public land for public good. We are pleased that the City has come to its senses by recognising the long-term value of developing mixed-use and mixed-income developments with a threshold of a minimum number of social housing units. It is exactly the formula we proposed five years ago. Now, we call on the City to have the courage of its convictions and develop the other sites identified in 2017 and 2018. These include other city centre land as well as sites in Green Point, Parow, Claremont and Wynberg,” he said.