root - March 14, 2023

Mayor denies claims made in recent news article

Upgrade of homes remain governed by the Municipal Planning By-law and related development approval processes

State can no longer provide fully subsidised homes

Peter Luhanga 

The City of Cape Town has disputed a Cape Argus report claiming mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis gave Dunoon homeowners permission to continue extending their homes into double and triple-storey houses.

The article, claiming Hill-Lewis was “creating a programme” to assist such buildings were safe, was published on 10 February.

Questions asking the City whether the National Building Regulations and Standards Act would no longer apply in Dunoon were met with denials.

“First off, the City of Cape Town wants to state that the mayor himself does not grant permission to build developments. This is governed by the Municipal Planning By-law and related development application approval processes. The Argus report incorrectly attributed comment to the mayor, and this has been taken up with the editor,” said City spatial planning and environment spokesperson Lizel Steenkamp.

Despite the request, the Cape Argus article has not been corrected to date. ()

Hill-Lewis, in response, said micro-developers who were building small-scale rental units and backyard flats in townships and informal settlements, were delivering more units annually than the entire rest of the property market.

Hill-Lewis said rather than framing these micro-developers as a problem to be obstructed, the City had a policy of supporting them to build safer, better-quality homes in informal settlements and backyards over time, and to ensure the properties were properly connected to bulk infrastructure, and properly billed for those services.

“In this way, micro-developers are able to provide much needed affordable accommodation, and help to move people out of informal structures into formal housing.”

He said all building activity must adhere to the City’s Municipal Planning By-law, but regulatory red tape in the development application process made it “very difficult” for micro-developers to become legally compliant. 

For this reason, he said the City aimed to work with micro-developers to regularise their efforts and help them comply with safety and structural integrity requirements. This was important not only for safe and compliant buildings, but for the property as an asset to be bought and sold in the formal property market, generating generational wealth and a property ladder for people in townships and informal settlements. 

This also helped the City increase income through the rates charged, which benefited all Capetonians. 

He said there was a priority programme to release City-owned land for affordable housing delivery, and part of this was to provide planning support to micro-developers in the form of local planning officers, compliant off-the-shelf building plans, assistance in the use of sustainable building materials, and helping to make non-compliant existing structures compliant.

Hundreds of millions of Rands was being spent on sewer infrastructure upgrades to cope with densification as people migrated to the city.

He said there was an ongoing reduction in the national budget for fully state-subsidised housing programmes, and the future of affordable housing delivery would not be delivered by the state. Rather the state would enable the private sector to deliver a far greater volume of affordable housing. 

In order for any meaningful reduction in housing demand, the City needed to “unlock micro-developers, social housing companies, and private sector delivery”, all of whom together could deliver far more affordable housing than the state could.

“They need to be enabled and freed up to deliver, rather than ever-more challenging hurdles placed in their way,” he said. 

Dunoon ward councillor Meisie Makuwa said the city could educate people about rezoning plans, as most people didn’t know the process required to obtain approved building plans before upgrading their home. 

Makuwa said the City could provide public outreach on the Municipal Planning By-law, “but now everyone has already been building and they can’t demolish their homes”. 

Dunoon resident Noluthando Ludziya said people building double-storey apartments on top of their RDP homes needed to have approved buildings as they did not comply to the by-law and affected neighbouring homes. 

“In other sections people have extended up to public road sidewalks, a lot of people have done that,” said Ludziya.

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