Cape Town remains a city where poor, working class people face enormous challenges just to survive, and key to changing this would be the creation of affordable housing close to the city centre.
This was according to well known social activist Zackie Achmat who was responding to a recent announcement by the City of Cape Town that it was looking at creating integrated low-income housing in the Cape Town CBD.
Apartheid-era spatial planning across South Africa meant that Black African and Coloured people were largely cast on the furthest geographical margins of society, far removed from the main economic opportunities.
Achmat said the City of Cape Town needed to take building affordable housing opportunities for disadvantage citizens into consideration as part of its future planning purposes as a “lot of job opportunities lies in the CBD”.
Last week the City issued a public call for partners to complete the city’s unsightly unfinished highways on the Foreshore, and as part of the project indicated that low-income housing would be a key component of any development plans.
And on Thursday, the City issued the prospectus for the development of the Foreshore Freeway Precinct in the Cape Town central business district, saying: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for urban developers to address the city’s traffic woes and affordable housing needs in return for the rights to develop one of the most valuable, vital and iconic precincts in the Mother City.”
Various opinion-makers believe that if such a project is done correctly, it could be a game changer in terms of transforming the lives of poor and marginalised people.
“Employers will admire having someone close to their work place as it would mean being able to call on them at short notice, no traffic jams,” Achmat said.
Prince Roberts travel from Philippi on the Cape Flats every day to the Cape Town CBD where he works as a security officer.
He urged local authorities to build affordable houses closer to the city centre, saying most of his salary went into daily transport costs.
“It will be a great effort if our government can build affordable houses near town that will also include low class workers such as security officers, cleaners, and those who work on hyper shops,” he told the African News Agency (ANA).
“I mostly spend my salary on transport as it is expensive to come to town every day, where on the other side I have family to look after,” said Prince.
Prince earns R5 000 monthly, but spends R1 000 on taxi fare every month, while also paying R1 300 for rent and then has to support himself and his two brothers. He said it left him with virtually nothing for the rest of the month.
“I can’t even save or buy on credit as I don’t qualify to do so,” he told ANA. “Only if I were to rent near work place I would save the amount that I use for transport.”
Prince said that to live in the heart of the Cape Town CBD was expensive and beyond the reach of most working class people, with units to rent starting from R7 000 a month upwards.
“By building affordable houses close to be CBD [it] will help the life of those poor and unemployed,” said Prince.
Nthabiseng Morena travels from Mfuleni to Cape Town CBD every day where she works as a cleaner.
Although she owns a RDP house in Mfuleni, she said that she is spending too much on transport fees and to pay water and electricity bills.
“I don’t earn much as I get R4 600 as my monthly salary, more than R1 500 goes to transport, water, and electricity bills. I am left with less to survive, and on the other side my young daughter must enroll in the university next year as she is in matric,” said Nthabiseng.
“There are many job opportunities in the CBD but poor people staying far from town are so not likely to get better jobs in the heart of the city as they have to waste so much money for transport.
“Wasting much money for taxi fee and not getting a job is very much devastating,” she said.
“If the local authorities build affordable houses for the poor near town, surely that on its own will change their lives for the better.
“Not only better job opportunities lies in the city but also poor black children will get better education”, added Nthabiseng.
Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille’s spokeswoman Zara Nicholson said the City’s goal was to bring more people closer to transport corridors and economic hubs in other parts of Cape Town.
“We are doing so with the new Transit Orientated Development (TOD) strategy which seeks to develop along transport corridors so that more people live closer to transport corridors and can access work opportunities at economic hubs near transport corridors.
The TOD strategic framework sought to optimise the location of future residential areas for all income groups in relation to economic and work opportunities, Nicholson added.
According to her, the TOD will hold substantial benefits for lower-income households who currently spend a higher proportion of their income on transport.
The City has stated that a portion of all future development must be for affordable housing that would cater for a range of income groups.
“This is to bring more people closer to the city centre and closer to work opportunities”, Nicholson said.