Private sector can help with affordable housing

15 June 2018

The demand for affordable housing is, in the mind of Brett Herron, the City of Cape Town's mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, "one of the biggest challenges Cape Town is facing at the moment", and within the affordable housing range, is the gap market.

There are about 352 000 people registered on the city's housing database, and it is their personal circumstances and monthly income that determines which opportunities they qualify for in terms of national legislation.

"Beneficiaries must be registered on the city's housing database to qualify for gap opportunities," Herron says.

He emphasises that applicants' monthly incomes must be below R15 000, and that this housing type is for ownership and not for rent.

Since the commencement of the Gap Housing Programme in Cape Town and the rest of the country in April 2012, more than 5 000 units have been delivered in Cape Town by the city, the provincial government, and the private sector, Herron says.

"We are working as hard and as fast as we can within the regulatory constraints, and we are doing as much as we can with the funds we are receiving from national government."

He points out that while urbanisation and demand for housing is rising, and construction costs have been increasing, the housing subsidy from the national government has not kept up.

"What we are seeing nationally is a diminishing number of housing opportunities being delivered year on year."

Furthermore, household incomes have risen, as has the cost of living and cost of housing, but the income bands to qualify for assistance have remained static.

"This means many families who are indigent or in need of assistance do not qualify in terms of nationally prescribed household income bands.

"This is an unintended cruel outcome of a rigid housing programme and serves to exacerbate the housing crisis," Herron says.

While the city is "geared towards" reversing the legacy of apartheid spacial planning - including the provision of affordable housing on well-located land, and the identification of suitable buildings in the CBDs to be developed or converted into affordable rental accommodation - he says the private sector can contribute by including affordable housing units in all new developments.

"In other words, it can assist by allocating a percentage of the development to units that will be affordable to the lower income market, be it for renting, or buying."

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