CBD Buildings - City Developers urged to go smaller and taller for affordable housing

Increasing the height of buildings and dividing developments into smaller units could help address the lack of affordable housing in Cape Town’s central business district (CBD).

This is according to a paper by the department of construction economics and management at the University of Cape Town, which identifies the challenges presented by the lack of affordable housing in the CBD and proposes some solutions.

One of these is to increase the height of buildings and divide developments into smaller units to improve the ratio between costs and profitability for property developers, while keeping housing affordable.

“There is a perception that South Africans are unwilling to consider smaller living spaces, but I think the phenomenon of backyard dwellings, in which people are willing to pay for cramped accommodation because it is well located, shows that is not the case,” researcher and land economist Robert McGaffin said.

“In places like inner-city Johannesburg, the private sector is renting out 15m² spaces at a rate of 98% occupancy,” he said.

The CBD in Cape Town has been a victim of its own success as its expansion and development has led to a steep increase in residential property prices.

McGaffin said apartheid planning had resulted in fragmented and sprawling cities, and in Cape Town this was exacerbated by the fact that land close to the city was expensive.

McGaffin, along with coauthors Francois Viruly, Mark William Massyn and Nicole Hopkins, argue in their paper that development costs, such as land acquisition, construction costs, financing and marketing, must be balanced by affordability to a lower- to midincome market.

According to the paper, realistic economic factors and policy changes have a part to play in increasing the viability of affordable housing.

The authors suggest that less onerous building standards should be introduced. According to McGaffin, the cumulative effect of stringent building standards has been underestimated as a stumbling block to affordable housing. “Obviously it’s important for standards to be in place when it comes to human habitation, but a balance has to be struck between making buildings safe to live in and making them affordable.

“Otherwise, a few will get to live in safe spaces, while those who can’t afford it will be forced to live in dangerous buildings.”

Source: Business Day – written by eProperty News

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