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How the State can Combat Spatial Inequality in Cape Town

Civil society organisations call for the release of under-utilised military land for low- income housing. On 7 December 2020, civil society organisations* submitted a joint proposal to President Cyril Ramaphosa calling for the urgent release of three large and exceptionally well-located parcels of unused or under-used military land in Cape Town for the development of low-income housing. Three identified sites can provide housing for up to 67,000 households. Instead, it remains under-utilised. Twenty-six years after apartheid, Cape Town remains characterised by spatial inequalities, with the vast majority of poor and working-class families (who are predominantly Black and Coloured) still being confined to townships and informal settlements on the outskirts of the city. The housing crisis in Cape Town disproportionately affects poor and working-class families. A shift away from the “cheap land, poor location” default response to housing delivery is needed. The state and municipalities should proactively identify, acquire and release well-located public land for the development of subsidised housing. The current use of the identified military sites is inefficient and irrational in the context of a profound housing- and segregation crisis facing Cape Town. By unlocking and releasing well-located state land for this purpose, the state will make considerable strides in alleviating the housing affordability crisis, reversing Cape Town’s apartheid legacy, and ameliorating the devastating health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.