In Cape Town we are so fortunate in that we have a wealth of natural assets, a diverse and warm people, and an economy that is attractive to investors. But we also struggle with a gap between privileged and vulnerable residents, traffic congestion, and a dire housing need.
So while it is clear that we have achieved a great deal, there is still much more to be done – and we are getting on with it. The City of Cape Town is in the midst of an exciting process – the implementation of our new Organisational Development and Transformation Plan (ODTP).
Approved by Council last year, the ODTP serves as the blueprint for building a more sustainable, responsive, and effective organisation and which will help take local government to the next level.
This new customer-centric approach emphasises strong central service departments with area-based project and performance management to ensure that service levels are being met in all parts of the city.
It will mean parking the traditional silo approach, and making way for transversal management. In a housing context, this means not considering projects in isolation, but looking at the bigger urban development picture. The newly formed Transport and Urban Development Authority will ensure not only that housing opportunities are delivered, but that their spatial planning makes provision for access in terms of public transport. Put simply, we are seeking to more closely align housing development with the development of transport corridors – transit-oriented development.
In March 2016 Council adopted its Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Strategic Framework which prescribes how new developments across Cape Town should address apartheid spatial inequality, urbanisation and the high cost of public transport, while also stimulating economic growth. The TOD Strategic Framework has been the primary informant of all the City’s strategic built environment plans.
We have to balance the creation of economic development with high-density affordable housing which is located close to transport and social amenities. We also need to reconfigure our low-density, long commute city which is an inefficient and unsustainable land-use model.
The City has identified five major projects in Bellville, Philippi East, Athlone, Paardevlei, and the Cape Town central business district (CBD) where we will either invest in the improvement of existing public transport infrastructure or provide new public transport infrastructure to ignite urban renewal, economic growth, and job creation in these areas.
Paardevlei is the biggest of the five projects. In June last year the City took transfer of approximately 680 hectares of land at Paardevlei, Somerset West for future mixed-use urban development. The purchase of the property is a proactive and long-term strategic decision by the City to procure land for the current and future expansion needs of the city. This area is approximately three times larger than Century City and the size of the Cape Town central city bowl, from Vredehoek to the CBD and the foreshore. We are very excited about the possibilities that this site holds and much work has gone in to identifying possible options that could be proposed for development over a 25- to 30-year period.
The investment into the five TOD projects will take place over the next five years and we will take the lead as the catalyst investor in these projects, to spur on other investment in projects in order to unlock transit-oriented development. This is what we have also done with Maiden’s Cove and the Foreshore Freeway Project. We leveraged City-owned land and made it available to the private sector, which must propose a plan to provide affordable housing and address traffic congestion. In November 2015, we also committed an additional R750 million over a period of five years for road infrastructure projects to alleviate the major pressure points in the city.
As part of our efforts to make governance more seamless, we also continue on our mission to reduce red tape. The City has heard the calls of developers that some large projects can fall prey to unnecessary blockages in the system, which obviously then leads to delays – sometimes at great cost.
I have a Trade and Investment Department in my office that has a dedicated development facilitation director. We have now instituted an overarching structure which he has called the Development Application Resolution Committee. Instead of waiting for developers to complain about hold-ups and blockages, we have put a system in place to identify potential issues and proactively pick up problems. The committee will meet with developers before they submit plans to advise them on the requirements and process. They will meet once a week to assess what big applications are in the system and how they are progressing, and the committee will also be called to meet at urgent notice if a problem is picked up with an application being stalled in the system. It is hoped that this will deal with any past blockages in the system and prevent any one official from being able to unilaterally hold up an application unnecessarily.
All of these interventions are part of our plan to create a more inclusive city, where everyone has access to not only the basics such as housing and services, but also economic opportunities.
We will continue working with our partners in the private sector and our residents to make progress possible, together.