Sea Point residents say no to ‘affordable housing’ plans

(This article was published on 21 May 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Sea Point residents are opposing a lobby group’s calls for the Western Cape government to turn the defunct Tafelberg school property in the area into affordable housing.

David Polovin, deputy chairman of the Sea Point Fresnaye Bantry Bay Ratepayers and Residents Association (SFB), said residents have discussed calls for Tafelberg Remedial School in Sea Point’s main road into housing units.

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DISPUTE: The Tafelberg Remedial School in Sea Point has become a contested space as locals want revamped to create affordable housing while the Western Cape government wants to sell it for R135-million. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Polovin told Weekend Argus this week residents viewed Tafelberg as a “powerful engine for change in the neighbourhood”.

“The use to which it finally is put could regenerate, enrich and uplift the area, or conversely set it back significantly,” said Polovin.

“The proposed alternative, that it be used for affordable housing, is neither practicable nor in the interests of the Sea Point community.”

Lobby group Reclaim the City (RTC) has campaigned for Tafelberg to be converted into housing to counter what it calls Cape Town’s “apartheid spatial planning”.

RTC earlier this month won a court battle at the Western Cape High Court against the provincial transport and public works department to stop it from selling Tafelberg for R135-million to the Phyllis Jowel Jewish Day School.

By order of the court, the department had to reopen a public consultation process, which RTC said was lacking during the initial sale period.

The department had promoted via a brochure “four prime opportunities for investors”.

Along with Tafelberg, the other three sites are the Helen Bowden Nurses Home near the Cape Town Stadium, Top Yard near Parliament, and the Alfred Street Complex in Green Point.

Sea Point’s residents plan to also make their voices heard during the current 21-day public consultation process that ends on June 9.

Polovin said residents believed if the provincial government sold Tafelberg it could use “proceeds from the sale for affordable housing or other social upliftment needs” elsewhere.

“We think the property does not meet the criteria for affordable housing. There is much better provincial owned land for affordable housing in Cape Town, such as the old Conradie Hospital site in Pinelands,” he said.

“We are not persuaded that it (affordable housing) serves the interests of Sea Pointers, including residents and workers.”

Polovin said it was also “naive to imagine that government is better at land management than private enterprise”.

“There is little state owned rentals (stock) in Sea Point and the area is not and has never been suitable for affordable housing, which explains why there is little of it,” he added.

“No informed person can believe that Sea Point offers a viable opportunity to spend public money on affordable housing and we’ve heard no proper reason to gainsay that.

“What we’ve heard instead are political imaginings that take no account of town planning considerations, budgetary constraints and the optimal use of thin resources for competing demands.”

Weekend Argus found at least two state-owned properties in Sea Point that are abandoned and fenced up.

The one property is Rocklands Villas, behind the national broadcaster SABC, and the other is Wynyard Mansions behind the Tafelberg property on Sea Point’s main road.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said Rocklands Villas is a “building purchased long ago to provide the SABC additional capacity”.

“It is an old building that in its current state is unsuitable for human occupation and has been uninhabited since 1996,” he added.

Siphesihle Dube, spokesman for provincial MEC for minister of transport and public works, Donald Grant, said Wynyard Mansions is part of the Tafelberg sale, although a fence separates it from the school property.

“The land on which Wynyard Mansions is situated was to be sold to the Phyllis Jowel Jewish Day School,” he said.

“This proposed sale has been taken under legal review. This process is currently under way.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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