Spatial planning dismay

Lester September and Riyaaz Ismail, Forum of Cape Flats Civics

The Forum of Cape Flats Civics (FCFC), a forum of non-party politically aligned civics/residents-based organisations from across the Cape Flats, notes with dismay the decision by the City of Cape Town to perpetuate apartheid spatial planning – manifested in a sprawling Cape Flats – by relegating poor and working class families (most of whom are historically disadvantaged Capetonians) to the peripheries of society reminiscent of the apartheid regime.

With research showing the causal relationship between the #ApartheidCity’s exclusionary effects, and inter-generational transmission of poverty, violent crime (murder, rape, gang violence, etc) and social ills (substance abuse, gangsterism and gang recruitment, etc), where seven of the top 10 most violent areas in South Africa are on the Cape Flats, we view relegating low income and low middle income families to Knole Park, Philippi, with its low employment absorption opportunities, as unreasonable and irresponsible, as we have seen the results of this backward and regressive policy, in escalating levels of violent crime and social ills.

The FCFC contri-bution to the City of Cape Town’s Municipal Spatial Development Framework 2017 to 2022 (MSDF 2017to 2022) called for a moratorium on sprawl-inducing public housing where we articulated our support for the reversing of apartheid spatial planning via inner city (CBD and 10km radius around it) and inner suburbs along the M4 (main road that runs from central Cape Town to and through the southern suburbs – and 1km surrounds) – affordable social housing.

While the City references the MSDF, as a reason for ignoring objections to the development at Knole Park, the draft MSDF actually admits to strong employment opportunities along the M4, where “The northern portion is well serviced, providing good opportunities for high-density mixed-use development, while the southern portion of the corridor is still developing, but with strong similarities to the north”, we find it strange that the City now focuses on Philippi and Lotus River with high rates of non-economically active residents.

The Ottery and Lotus River area, has experienced some of the most violent gang wars in recent years, where placing vulnerable households, in this area makes no sense.

The northern portion of the corridor starting at Cape Town CBD, has 85% of economic activity according to research in the 2016 State of Cape Town report: Economic Chapter. While the apartheid regime also justified their decisions to relegate historically disadvantaged to the Cape Flats by claiming that this benighted community will find work in factories, the research also shows that while industrial nodes (such as that found in nearby Retreat) create 135 industrial jobs per hectare, meanwhile historically Lotus River opposite the proposed development has on average experienced about 19% to 23% unemployment (if you include discouraged work-seekers) while this figure rises to 50% if you include the “not economically active”, which places a huge burden on already low income households where 60% of families in Lotus River earn below R6 401.00 per month, and 40% earn below R3 201.00 per month.

Taking the high rate of inter-generational transmission of poverty, the decision is further questioned where those who live in the inner city experience low levels of unemployment, and violent crime, yet the City deems it fit to relegate the poor to the peripheries.

Reclaim the City’s presentation to a Cape Flats ratepayer and residents’ association recently advised that employment rate at Cissie Gool House (Woodstock) was standing at over 80% regular employment (excluding seasonal work opportunities).

It is time the City stopped the perpetuation of apartheid spatial planning, and focused on creating and promoting safe and economically viable spaces on the Cape Flats, and affordable social housing opportunities in the inner city and inner suburbs.

Marian Nieuwoudt, the City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, responds:

Contrary to what is being raised in the letter, the approval of the private sector developments by the City’s advisory panel on planning appeals will actually assist us in undoing the legacy of apartheid spatial planning.

By approving these developments in Knole Park in Philippi, the City is enabling the private sector to provide more than 240 affordable housing units for lower income households. There is a dire need for affordable housing in Cape Town and we must all welcome efforts from the private sector to assist us in meeting this demand on well-located land.

Approximately 30% of the land in Knole Park is vacant and neglected, making it prone to crime and invasions. These private developments will help put to good use urban vacant land, while at the same time improving the general safety of the local community. The developer is also obliged to improve the surrounding roads, as stipulated by the conditions of approval.

Importantly, these developments are close to major access routes such as Strandfontein and Ottery roads which will provide residents with easy access to and from places of employment and economic opportunities. Also, those who will reside in these developments will have easy access to public transport services.

Where we live determines how much we spend on transport and how long we have to travel to get to our destinations. The closer residents live to places of employment and schools, the less money they spend on transport, and the more time they have with their loved ones.

Low-income households need affordable housing on well-located land. The development in Knole Park is a prime example of such a development and should be supported by the local community, and all of us who are trying to undo the legacy of apartheid spatial planning.