Housing takes the high road

15 February 2005

Work has begun on one of South Africa’s most ambitious housing projects to date. The multi-million rand N2 Gateway Project will benefit over 100 000 people who squat along the highway leading from Cape Town International Airport into the Mother City – and pilot a new model for tackling urban development in the country.

Contractors from Sobambisana Consortium began clearing sites along the N2 last week – a day after they were informed that they had won the mammoth low-cost housing tender.

This project, starting with the Joe Slovo informal settlement, is the first to emerge from the government’s new plan to fast-track housing delivery, with the aim of eradicating informal settlements in the country by 2014.

Rapid delivery – to be achieved in part by jettisoning unnecessary bureaucracy and limiting prior consultation and participation – is seen as key to the project.

Cape Town Executive Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo said the project aimed to “bring quality housing to the poor of our City on a scale which has not been on the agenda before.

“It is not only about providing housing to residents of informal settlements”, Mfeketo said. “All families needing housing will benefit from our new approach to housing – those living in backyards, those living in council housing, those with no housing at all.”

About 30% of the housing will be dedicated to backyard dwellers.

Mark Julies of the Sobambisana Consortium, made up of six companies, said work would commence at a “very rapid pace” once they had received all the necessary information and documentation.

Detailed layout plans, design drawings, architect’s impressions and models of the units had been submitted as part of the tender process – and clearing of sites and excavation was already under way.

The first sub-phase of the project kicks off with 700 units, simple in design, at the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Langa that was ravaged by fire in January. Julies said these would be high-density units – about 150 units per hectare – consisting of a variety of one, two and three-bed roomed units.

The aim, he said, was not to recreate “just another township” but rather an urban environment, consisting of open space, green space, semi-private space and rainwater collection points.

Other informal settlements earmarked for the project include Barcelona, Boys Town, Kanana and New Rest.

Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu described the project as a “win-win for everyone in Cape Town”.

Everyone involved in the project had worked hard to work out an avenue and a business plan, pool resources, count the “meagre pennies” and put together an integrated development plan, she said.

Because there was always contestation over scarce resources, Sisulu urged communities to “be patient and understand”.

Government housing representatives will embark on a door-to-door campaign to establish a better understanding of the project.

“To ensure the integrity of the process, we have asked the Department of Justice to come on board to ensure that all the legal requirements are kept and processed”, Sisulu added.

Source: BuaNews

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