Why inner city housing is possible : Calls to halt sale of prime city land in Cape Town | FUTURE CAPE TOWN

“the City and Province continue to entrench apartheid-era planning”

Inner City Tafelberg Site 001

Organisations in Cape Town call for government authorities to consider more inclusive and visionary uses for 4 well located, inner city land parcels.

by Ashleigh Furlong for GroundUp

Also read: Stop selling our land (PDF) in the People’s Law Journal

The Western Cape Provincial Government is set to sell or lease four prime Cape Town properties to private investors, despite repeated calls by various organisations including Ndifuna Ukwazi, the Social Justice Coalition and Equal Education, to halt the sales and consider the development of the sites for affordable housing.

Information about the sites : Total 175,000 sqm

  • Alfred Street Complex: Situated in Alfred Street in the Prestwich Precinct. Linking the Cape Town CBD and the V&A Waterfront with an estimated total of 65 000 sq.m potential bulk available.
  • Top Yard: Is a part of the Government Motor Transport Precinct. Located in the CBD, less than 500 meters from National Parliament and the Company Gardens, with an estimated total of 46 484 sq.m potential bulk available.
  • Main Road Sea Point: Is the site formerly known as the old Tafelberg Remedial High School. Located at 335 Main Road, Sea Point, approximately 3.5 kms from the CBD, consisting of two separate erven namely 1424 and 1675. With a total site area of 17,054 sq.m
  • Helen Bowden Nurses Home Site: Situated in the Somerset Precinct. Neighbouring the V&A Waterfront and the Cape Town Stadium with an estimated total of 46 000 sq.m potential bulk available.

The four properties are on prime land in the CBD or surrounding areas: the Alfred Street Complex in the city centre, the Helen Bowden Nurses’ Home in Green Point, Top Yard in Gardens, and the former Tafelberg Remedial High School in Sea Point, which has already been sold to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School.

In Ndifuna Ukwazi’s (NU) correspondence to the province on 4 February this year, the organisation cautions the province against “any disposal and transfer that does not address the need for mixed-use and mixed-income housing”.

NU also asks why some or all of the sites have been declared as “surplus”, meaning that they no longer support the service delivery objectives of the Western Cape. The organisation calls for a feasibility assessment to show whether the province considered alternatives to private investment.

Correspondence between the province and NU, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) and Equal Education (EE) began in April last year with a joint submission calling for the Western Cape government to halt the sale or lease. The organisations claim that “instead of promoting and encouraging the use of available land for the development of plans for mixed, affordable, and low-cost housing within Cape Town, the City and Province continue to entrench apartheid-era planning”, adding that this is “unlawful in terms of the Constitution”. They also highlight the shortage of available land in Cape Town.

The Province has yet to respond to NU’s latest letter, but in an earlier response to the SJC, the province admits that there is “a severe shortage of available land in the Metro” and agrees that “the legacies of apartheid-style type spatial planning need to be reversed”.

Where the Province’s approach differs from that of NU, SJC and EE is that the Province believes that in order to fund developments for the poor it is necessary to “extract maximum value from the more valuable inner city properties to create an income stream and a development fund from which projects for the poor can be cross-subsidised”.

“There is a vast difference between developing housing in the CBD and developing housing at the edges of the Metro. The financial modelling for affordable low cost and social housing is heavily dependent on aspects such as government subsidies, free land and ownership solutions. In the inner city, this modelling is simply impossible to apply and a very different approach, factoring in the high cost of land, the cost and complexity of building high-rise structures, issues of cross-subsidisation within mixed-use, mixed-tenure solutions and the management, maintenance and operations of such developments, is required,” wrote Donald Grant, the Western Cape MEC of transport and public works in a response.

The four sites were advertised at an investors’ conference in March last year where their desirable locations as well as their development and investment potential were highlighted. No mention was given to the possibility of making the sites into any form of social housing.

This is the Tafelberg School Site in Sea Point with a mock up of 204 units of mixed income housing. The WC Province saw it, rejected it, and sold the land to one wealthy white individual

This is the Tafelberg School Site in Sea Point with a mock up of 204 units of mixed income housing made by Ndifuna Ukwazi and their #Reclaimthecitymovement in February which WC Province rejected it, and sold the land to a developer.

The controversy over whether the sites should be declared “surplus” stems from the Sea Point property being declared surplus.

According to the Government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA), a “surplus” immovable asset is one that “no longer supports the service delivery objectives of the user [the Western Cape Province]”. NU says it does not know if all four properties have been declared “surplus”, but notes that the properties were all advertised in the same process.

The GIAMA also states that before an “immovable asset” is declared “surplus” it must be determined whether the site can be used “in relation to government’s socio-economic objectives, including land reform, black economic empowerment, alleviation of poverty, job creation and the redistribution of wealth”.

On Saturday 13 February, NU will launch a campaign demanding that the four sites be retained by the Western Cape Provincial Government and developed for affordable housing. The launch will take place at 1pm at 40 Long Street, Cape Town.

This article was originally published at GroundUp on 08 February 2016.


  1. Image credits : Investing in the Western Cape. Accessed here
  2. Original article text: GroundUp

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