Social housing on V&A's doorstep gets green light

05 September 2018 - 10:20 By Bobby Jordan
Cape Town's V&A Waterfront. File photo.
Cape Town's V&A Waterfront. File photo.

Cape Town will have a swanky new residential suburb right next to the V&A Waterfront thanks to a municipal decision to rezone a large area accommodating a hospital and nurses’ home.

The new development proposal for the Somerset precinct – named after Somerset Hospital in the middle of the site – is conditional on provision of “social housing” for less affluent residents‚ the municipal planning tribunal ruled on Tuesday.

The rezoning decision paves the way for the Western Cape provincial government to advance a development plan which also includes retail and business components. The land is considered among the most valuable in the country due to its location between the V&A and Cape Town Stadium.

However‚ the province still faces significant obstacles before it can start doling out tenders: part of the proposed development site is owned by the National Health Laboratory Service‚ and the old nurses’ quarters – now renamed Ahmed Kathrada House – have been “reclaimed” by social housing activists and homeless families.

The tribunal also instructed the province to increase its proposed residential footprint on the site – including the social housing component.

Activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi warned that homeless residents would need to be accommodated elsewhere before development could commence.

“These families are now facing eviction‚ which will take years to conclude because there is simply no affordable housing in the area‚” it said in a statement.

“It would be untenable and unjust to consider sending these families to relocation camps on the periphery of the city‚ when the very reason that people are living there is to be closer to job opportunities and good services.”

Some housing activists remain sceptical of the province’s commitment to creating affordable housing in the city centre due to the earlier sale of another parcel of prime land‚ the Tafelberg School site in Sea Point‚ to developers.

But the province insists it is committed to social housing in line with its “Better Living Model”‚ which proposes mixed-use developments with retail components cross-subsidising residential development.

Premier Helen Zille welcomed the tribunal’s rezoning decision. She said the initial phase would see 300 new affordable housing units replacing the old nurses’ quarters.

“We are committed to maximising affordable housing on the remainder of the precinct‚ which has been our position from day one. This rezoning approval enables us to do that‚” Zille said.