Promises of housing unfulfilled

Michael Jacobs, deputy chairperson of Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association (MURA)

You are well aware of the current wave of violent protests over services, lack of housing and the occupation of land across the peninsula by communities.

Mayor Patricia de Lille had to go out to communities to listen to their plight and see what could be done to improve the situation of thousands of desperate individuals, who once again find themselves in very wet and cold conditions as winter sets in. Just more than two weeks ago the community of Woodlands in Mitchell’s Plain occupied at least three plots of vacant land as they could no longer wait for promises of housing delivery to be fulfilled.

One of these plots, between Orion and Eros roads, was earmarked to be sold on public auction as per a decision at a full City of Cape Town meeting on Thursday May 31.

If there is such a pressing need for housing in our communities why is the council bent on disposing of suitable land which could be used to address the severe housing shortage?

There have also been other plots within Mitchell’s Plain that have been put on the market without really taking into consideration the housing needs of the Mitchell’s Plain community. We are well aware that certain plots in Mitchell’s Plain have been identified for future housing but is that enough?

Are we going to ignore the plight of these communities or are we really going to be serious about changing communities’ for the better?

We are also aware that the City undertook a land audit around open spaces within Mitchell’s Plain which was tabled at Sub-council 12 on August 16 last year, entitled Sub-council 12: “Open space rationalisation framework” by Nigel Titus, from the City’s Urban Planning and Mechanisms.

What happened to this document?

Councillors in the sub-council have been discussing this, but there has been no consultation or public participation with the community of Mitchell’s Plain and registered community based organisations.

So, are these councillors really serious about discussing the issue of land that affects our communities?

Is the open rationalisation framework a done deal, where councillors do not deem the input of the community and organisations as necessary and relevant? The development of land and how it is disposed of should be seen as an expression of the community’s vision for the future and a strategic map to reach that vision.

The framework could be an important tool for the City and communities to guide future development of land to ensure a safe, sustainable and economical environment for residential, commercial, industrial, and public activities.

In addition, planning can help: create the opportunity for residents to participate in guiding a community’s future; identify issues, stay informed about developments in their neighbourhood, and accommodate change; ensure that growth makes the community better, not just bigger; foster sustainable economic development; provide an opportunity to consider future implications of today’s decisions; protect property rights and values; enable other public and private agencies to plan their activities in harmony with the municipality’s plans.

The Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association (MURA) therefore makes a call for a moratorium to be placed on the sale of all council land within Mitchell’s Plain and surrounding areas so that we can collectively come to a negotiated settlement as to what is best for our communities in respect of land and how it should be developed or dispose of.

Eddie Andrews, mayoral committee member for Area South, responds:

We are aware of the service delivery protests and understand the community’s frustration regarding the provision of housing opportunities in Mitchell’s Plain.

There are various factors and legislative processes that need to be taken into account from the time that land that is suitable for residential development is identified until the development of the identified land can proceed.

In light of this, I would like to respond to the three aspects that Mr Jacobs raises.

Firstly, with regards to the sale of City land – a number of factors are taken into consideration before land is identified for disposal. Should a property be found to be surplus, meaning it is no longer required for municipal purposes, the council approves that the property be included in the property release programme.

The property in question is made available for disposal by public competition for potential residential development.

The property is then scheduled for sale or for lease through a competitive process on the open market.

Advertising to lease City-owned land is subject to administrative and legal procedures.

Various municipal departments are involved throughout the process, such as planning and Building Development, Legal Services, Corporate Services and Property Management.

The process leading up to advertising to lease any City-owned land is therefore a multi-departmental approach to ensure the highest level of compliance.

The City ensures that due process is followed in terms of the Municipal Finance Management Act and Municipal Asset Transfer Regulations when dealing with the granting of rights to use, control and manage City-owned immovable property.

Secondly, currently there are two City housing projects earmarked for Mitchell’s Plain.

The first is the Beacon Valley Project which will provide 1 818 housing opportunities on three sites.

A consultant has been appointed to prepare tender documents for the construction of civil services.

Civil services, including roads, water and drainage should commence in March next year.

The second project, the Highlands Housing Project, is still in the planning phase.

The project will provide 860 housing opportunities on four sites and construction should commence in 2020.

The City will make every effort to ensure that these projects come to fruition.

And thirdly, the Mitchells Plain Open Space Rationalisation Framework presentation in August 2017 was a pilot project that was initiated for the Sub-council 12 area only.

The presentation was a progress report on the work under way by City officials.

This was not a full land audit.

The sub-council has not concluded the framework, although the methodology was welcomed. The sub-council also had other approaches, therefore a public process has not been initiated yet.

The suggestion that the framework is the start of a dialogue is spot on.

The Sub-council 12 pilot project will be expanded for the entire Mitchell’s Plain area.

The district plan review process has been initiated internally, given the recent approval of the new Metropolitan Spatial Development Framework, and the public participation of the open space rationalisation framework will form a part of that overall planning process that determines a vision for the local areas.