Social housing proposal causes a stir

Councillor Nicole Graham stands by the open space of Victoria Park, where eThekwini Municipality aims to build social housing.

THE news that a number of prime locations within the inner city have been approved for social housing in a bid to rejuvenate the inner city and draw investment back to the region, has been met with mixed feelings by the Democratic Alliance and residents.

This follows the tabling of the Human Settlements and Infrastructure Committee report which revealed sites to be released for social housing at an Executive Committee meeting on 24 July.

The report claims that ongoing concerns by community members that open spaces across the city were being invaded, had prompted the city to secure the land in question for housing development. The report claims that Albert Park is currently underutilised and as a result is attracting criminal elements hence the proposal to develop mixed use housing on the property.

The sites identified for social housing development include Star Seaside Children’s Home on the corner of Playfair and Milneux Road, the Tennis Table Building in Epsom Road, Umngeni Road, south of Isaiah Ntshangase Road and east of Umngeni Road, the Drive-In Site, Albert Park, Victoria Park, and a block in Greyville.

Addressing the proposal, DA caucus leader, Nicole Graham, said while the party was not against the proposal in principle and acknowledged the need for the city to provide more social housing opportunities for people, a key concern was that the city wanted to utilise sites in North Beach which were of considerable economic value for eThekwini.

“Star Children’s Home and the valuable land in locations such as Victoria Park are surrounded by many high value residences and commercial property which is worth a lot on the rates base. There are plenty more suitable sites, especially in the CBD. I feel the municipality needs to protect its own economic assets and rates base and residents need to protect the value of their properties,” she said.

Graham said it didn’t make sense to build social housing in an economic and tourist zone.

“It is illogical that these areas be utilised. These are key tourist areas and our tourist industry is already in trouble. This is not going to help improve it in any shape or form. For 905 units to be built at Victoria Park is ludicrous. This is not about the rich versus the poor as we can create jobs by attracting tourists and the poorest benefit from rates income. It’s about how zones are being utilised,” she said.

ALSO READ: North Beach social housing project stirs up concerns

Responding to the news, residents of North Beach have submitted objections to the proposal. Chief among their concerns is that the infrastructure at North Beach cannot sustain the massive increase in the number of permanent residents envisaged from low cost housing projects such as an increase in traffic, lack of nearby pre- and primary schools, day care centres, clinics, large shopping complexes, bus and taxi stations. Further, there is a lack of adequate and suitable land space for the establishment of necessary infrastructure to cater for the increased numbers of residents.

“The area of North Beach is an attractive tourist destination and draws a sizeable income for the hotel and tourist industry and the municipality. Future developments should seek to expand tourist amenities in the area rather than detract from it,” said a resident, reiterating Graham’s sentiments.

The tabled report allows for authority to be granted to enter into long-term leases at these properties for an initial period of 30 years with an option to renew for a further 20 years for the development of social and gap housing. The report also grants authority to rezone the properties to the appropriate zoning to accommodate the proposed development.

ALSO READ: There are negatives to low income housing, says resident

The report was largely welcomed by the Executive Committee.

Chairperson of the Human Settlements and Infrastructure Committee Mondli Mthembu said the inner city Local Area Plan (LAP) covered most of the earmarked sites. He said the LAP sought to create a vision and framework to revitalise the inner city.

“We realise that we have capital flight from the inner city and this project seeks to regenerate the inner city in line with the LAP. We want to bring investment back to the inner city which has moved to the northern and western suburbs. This will bring economic development to the city,” Mthembu said.

Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer said the social housing will be mixed-use and will include professionals working in the City.

“Living in the vicinity where these professionals work will be an advantage to them. A number of American cities have social housing in the city centre. Also, social housing helps with regeneration,” she said.

 

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  AUTHOR
Lauren Walford
Journalist

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