Ignore social justice at your peril‚ Cape Town developers warned

The lack of affordable housing in central Cape Town poses a risk to the city’s future‚ a property industry leader warned on Wednesday.

Kloof street in Cape Town’s CBD.
Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/THE TIMES

Government leaders ignored inputs from social justice campaigners such as Ndifuna Ukwazi at their own peril‚ said Deon van Zyl‚ chairman of the Western Cape Property Development Forum.

He told the Cape Town Central City Improvement District’s annual business breakfast the City of Cape Town was unwilling to engage with private and social stakeholders on the issue of housing.

“Affordable accommodation not being addressed is going to exponentially increase the social risk to development‚ and by default it will increase the political risk‚” said Van Zyl.

The industry might get to a point where politicians and technocrats formulated legislation to force it into social housing developments‚ he warned.

“One of the biggest disruptive factors in property development is new legislation and policy. We don’t have a history of politicians and technocrats engaging with the private sector when they draft legislation.”

The author of the CCID’s 2016 State of Cape Town Central City Report‚ Carola Koblitz‚ said the price of residential property in the CBD had increased by 5.24% in the past six months‚ from R33,921/m² in December to R35,700/m². There were around 3,800 residential units in the CBD with a capacity to house 7,000 people‚ a fraction of the 140,000-150,000 people estimated to be working in the city centre‚ she said.

“What percentage of the people who make the city work‚ live in the city?” said Van Zyl‚ adding that there was a massive opportunity for property developers if they could work with government to deregulate the development environment.

He noted that new plans to develop the foreshore precinct were a clear indication of the appetite to deregulate. The precinct aims to double the residential capacity in the city centre through high-density developments which would also include space for businesses.

“It’s our opportunity‚ and I must say there’s a political willingness to engage which there was not necessarily in the past‚” said Van Zyl.

“There is a private sector willing to also engage in affordable accommodation whilst developing a high-end product‚ and that’s exciting.

“The reality is there is bulk and there is a local and international market that sees value in that bulk. If somebody wants to spend money‚ at least talk to them and try and accommodate them as much as you can.”

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