CAPE TOWN May 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - South
African academics and activists have launched a project to
tackle the "continuing apartheid" in Cape Town's housing
policies in a bid to reshape the coastal city and end racial
The initiative comes amid growing protests over the impact
of rapid gentrification in parts of the city which experts fear
will further entrench the racial and economic divides that still
characterise Cape Town more than 20 years after the end of
The Integration Syndicate - a partnership including three
city universities, policymakers, and civil society groups - will
hold monthly forums for experts and the public in an effort to
revolutionise housing policies.
When apartheid was introduced in 1948, it created separate
development areas for different racial groups, formally
expanding the colonial style of urban development established in
the 18th century.
Edgar Pieterse, who heads the Integration Syndicate, told
the Thomson Reuters Foundation that these segregation policies
contributed to the creation of market-driven patterns of
investment that still shape the city today.
Pieterse, who is director of the African Centre for Cities
at the University of Cape Town, said social housing policies
over the last quarter century had compounded the problem with
low-cost housing being built further and further out on the
periphery of townships and informal settlements where land is
This has left poorer residents living far from transport
hubs, services and jobs.
The city of 3.74 million people – often named one of the
world's top tourist destinations for its spectacular beaches,
scenery, shopping and dining - is the sixth most segregated area
in South Africa, according to government data.
The population is roughly 42 percent coloured, 37 percent
black and 16 percent white.
Most of the white population live in leafy neighbourhoods
including ones along the coast, while the city's poorest people
– mostly black - are scattered throughout more than 200 dusty,
cramped informal settlements far out of town.
Around 1 million people – coloured and black – live in the
large Cape Flats area southeast of the business district, which
is often called "apartheid's dumping ground" as it was home to
people the apartheid government considered non-white.
Experts say attempts to reverse the city's planning legacy
in recent years have failed and there is now an urgent need to
re-think policy if proper integration is to be achieved.
"(We need) a more radical approach which actively seeks to
undo or respond to the legacy of spatial inequality," said Kelly
Arendse, of the Better Living Challenge which fosters
innovations to improve the city's informal settlements.
She said it was time for a "concerted effort" to create an
integrated city, and called for poorer communities long
established in valuable inner areas such as the historic suburb
of Woodstock to be protected.
A new tax on vacant land to discourage idle land speculation
and act as an incentive for integrated socially cohesive
development was also needed, she said.
The brainstorming initiative will culminate with a
conference next year when the syndicate will present its
Cape Town's urban segregation made headlines recently when
demonstrations against the sale of publicly owned land
highlighted the human impact of gentrification.
In March, activists occupied two provincial government
owned sites - the disused Woodstock Hospital and the Helen
Bowden Nurses Home near the popular V&A Waterfront quarter - as
they protested against the sale and redevelopment of inner city
land which they argued should have been used for affordable
In Woodstock, an area undergoing gentrification, 27 families
have spent more than a year fighting eviction requests from a
developer which acquired their homes to build apartments for
mid-to-upper-income tenants or buyers.
Residents have turned down offers of alternative
accommodation 30 minutes' drive from the city saying it is too
far out and are refusing to leave.
(Reporting by Munyaradzi, Editing by Paola Totaro and Emma
Batha. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
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change. Visit news.trust.org)