High hopes crash down over affordable housing

19 January 2018 - 18:21 By Aron Hyman
Artist's impression of what the Zero-2-One Tower will look like on the corner of Strand and Adderley Streets in Cape Town.
Artist's impression of what the Zero-2-One Tower will look like on the corner of Strand and Adderley Streets in Cape Town.
Image: FWJK

Construction of Cape Town’s tallest building has been “stopped in its tracks” by a planning tribunal decision that it must include affordable housing‚ say its developers.

Housing activists Ndifuna Ukwazi celebrated a victory for “for poor and working-class households” after the tribunal made its ruling on the Zero2One building planned for the corner of Adderley and Strand streets by developers FWJK.

“After some deliberation‚ the tribunal approved the plans and imposed a condition that 20% of all the apartments in the building and a further 20% of the bulk departure must be reserved for affordable housing‚” said a statement from the NGO Ndifuna Ukwazi.

But FWJK said they were appealing the ruling‚ which they said would force them to include 240 affordable flats in the 44-storey building.

“We are hopeful that our appeal will succeed and that sanity will prevail in the private development sector‚” said FWJK director Craig Armstrong.

“The private development sector cannot be expected to provide subsidised housing‚ which is the responsibility in our opinion of the state.”

The basis of FWJK’s appeal is that commercial banks would not give loans for apartments under 30m²‚ making it unviable for the developer and buyers to have small but cheap “micro-apartments” in the mix.

In August‚ Ndifuna Ukwazi objected to building plans for Zero2One‚ prompting FWJK to design 568 micro-apartments at R800 000 each. According to Ndifuna Ukwazi‚ the tribunal is an independent body established under the new Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act to adjudicate on planning decisions and ensure that all land-use applications uphold the principles of spatial justice‚ efficiency and sustainability to advance the constitution and redress spatial apartheid.

“At the hearing in December‚ Ndifuna Ukwazi argued that even these micro-apartments were too expensive for the majority of black and coloured households‚” the organisation said.

“In effect‚ the building would remain spatially unjust and would not advance the principle of spatial justice. We added that wealthy buyers would rent or sell the apartments at high prices.

“Only 6% of black and 7% of coloured households would have been able to access even the cheapest micro-apartments.”

Armstrong said after news of the micro-apartments broke they were inundated with requests to buy. But banks said the apartments would not be financed.

Unless they could find an institution to fund construction‚ which would take three years‚ they would not be able to afford the micro-apartment model — something that has worked in New York and other densely populated cities.

“The provision of affordable housing has got to be tackled by authorities such as the Department of Human Settlements and other grant-funded organisations on land that may be made available for such purposes by the city‚” said Armstrong.