We invited several people to write about how to solve the housing crisis.

Today we are publishing the first article in this series by the Mayor of Cape Town.

Decent affordable housing is at the heart of every family’s dignity and enabling people to feel that their lives can improve. That is why in Cape Town we have committed to releasing city-owned land as soon as possible to make affordable housing available to more Capetonians.

We want everyone in Cape Town and those who move here to feel that they have a chance to build a better life. In this way we will build a more inclusive city that can make progress in eliminating the legacy of apartheid.

The task is huge.

Many more people are falling into poverty in this ever-weakening national economy. Rising fuel costs and dysfunctional passenger rail systems are driving up transportation costs to unaffordable levels for most. This comes amid rising food prices and the widespread impact of load shedding and national quarantines on economic activity.

Compounding the effects of poor economic policy at the national level, families have endured a decade or more of steady financial retreat. Soaring unemployment, increasing homelessness and the growth of the informal sector are evidence of this.

At the same time, South Africa’s fully government-subsidized housing programs are steadily shrinking.

The future of affordable housing does not depend on free housing and not at the expense of the state. Instead, it will be about the enabling state.

To significantly reduce the demand for housing in our cities, we need to reposition the state as a provider of housing by unlocking micro-developers, social housing companies and the private sector.

Together, these three groups of developers can deliver much more affordable housing than the state. They need to be enabled and liberated to empower them, not put ever more complex obstacles in their way.

In January, I created a priority affordable housing program to advance four key areas:

1) Cutting red tape to ensure faster private sector delivery of thousands more affordable homes.

We have begun making substantive amendments to the Municipal Planning Bylaw to greatly simplify the process.

We are also reforming the online systems for certification of development applications and rates for fast approval of properties.

2) Making it easier for micro-developers to provide more rental units.

Micro-developers are now doing an incredible job of upgrading townships and informal settlements and delivering more units than the rest of the real estate market.

We will soon be offering planning support officers in townships with ready-made pre-approved building plans for rental properties.

We are also spending hundreds of millions to upgrade sewage infrastructure in informal settlements to cope with the densification that micro-developers are encouraging.

3) Providing people with property rights documents and eradicating historical backlogs.

Our work includes innovative partnerships with banks and cellular companies to identify beneficiaries who have yet to obtain title deeds. In this way we enable people to get on the property ownership ladder, leave a legacy to their children, generate income from micro-rentals or simply live in their own home.

4) Accelerating the release of city-owned land for social housing.

In the three months from May to July we processed three properties in the city center through the city council worth over 1,000 units of social housing.

This is thanks to the purposeful management of the City Hall, which manages a team working in various departments to quickly release the city’s land.

With the latest version of Salt River Market, the city now has over 800 social housing units in central Cape Town under construction or nearing construction through social housing companies.

Decent transitional shelter for the homeless
In tandem, we move to care interventions and the provision of decent alternative housing designed to help the homeless off the streets

Housing is not a crude tool to combat homelessness, given the range of reasons people end up on the streets, from mental illness to substance abuse and family alienation.

While the social security budget belongs to other areas of government, the city recognizes the need for decent temporary shelter combined with social programs aimed at reintegration into society.

Over the next three years, at least R140 million will go towards expanding and operating the city’s safe spaces outside the city center and Belleville.

The Safe Space model offers a dignified pathway to transitional shelter off the street, as well as a range of social services, from access to an on-site social worker to personal development planning.

We can do more together
The future demand for housing will be met by the state not as the main provider of housing, but as a contributing factor.

It’s time to turn the housing rental model upside down.

In Cape Town, we are determined to deliver the necessary reforms to release municipal land more quickly, while working with a wide range of private sector stakeholders, from micro to large developers.

Jordyn Hill-Lewis is the Mayor of Cape Town

© 2022 GroundUp.

This article was first published on GroundUp here.

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