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BLOK LETTER OF RESPONSE

We have received various letters of supports, comments, objections and responses to our proposed pilot inclusionary-housing project, FORTY ON L on Lion Street in Bo Kaap.

From the outset, the development was envisaged to be planned through research and design with those willing to participate with and engage in The Urban Working Group workshops, consultation and meetings. The opportunity to engage and consult with Blok as the land owner and developer was open, and commenced from early 2017. This was to ensure transparency in the planning process and the organic, informed evolution of a project based on feedback from, inter alia, consultants, engineers, planners, City officials, academics, policy makers, architects, designers, lawyers and economists.

This included 8 workshops, 12 consultation meetings, website information and various informal discussions with practitioners and agencies in the housing and development sector.

Despite this open approach over 9 months, many forewent the opportunity to engagement prior to plan submission, and rather used the departure application process for anti-development, anti-construction agendas based on incorrect information and a misrepresentation of the development.

To clarify, the application is not for building approval as a whole, but instead for exchanging 29 parking units into 11 more-affordable residential units which entails a deviation from the permissible bulk and parking requirements. More information on this model can be found here within the tabs on the left.

The current technical processes within the City to comment and object to developments are being taken advantage of and misused by the marketplace. As such, we have chosen to address some of the main themes that have materialised during the advertising period.

 

1. Public Participation

We have pioneered a process whereby we have a implemented rigorous public engagement on the development, which assisted in the evolution and improvement to the building design and the 80:20 pilot model. The intention was that this progressive approach to engagement would also add value to expanding awareness around urban development and grow the public culture around constructive engagement on developments which shape our city.

With this aim in mind, we worked with Future Cape Town to lead this process on our behalf.

The engagement is only as successful, informative and instrumental as the proactive members of society who are willing to positively participate and contribute their thoughts and views, and unfortunately the response from the local Cape Town communities and many professionals was inadequate. The lack of willingness to engage with change and process clarified that NIMBY’ism transcends all economic divisions, and that change, no matter how positive or progressive, is automatically perceived as incorrect, abusive and at the forefront, negative.

Above this, we utilised various other platforms to communicate, encourage engagement and advertise the proposal:

Blok Website: The information on the development was made available on our website from April 2017, including requests to join various consultation opportunities and workshops many months prior to the advertising period. It also included a professionals opinion, an urban context review of the Bo Kaap area, Blok’s mission statement for the project and an infographic attempting to visually represent the impact of the departure. 

Ratepayers & Civics: We attempted to engage with the Bo Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association from April 2017 without success and further attempted to positively engage with the rate payers no less than 14 times:

Meetings requests sent in 2017 : 12 April, 21 April, 03 May, 09 May, 12 May, 24 May, 06 June, 07 July, 13 July, 21 July, 20 Aug, 18 Sep. This information has been included as an addendum into our responses to the objections.

An Information Session with Ms. Jacky Poking representing the Bo Kaap Civic took place at the Blok offices on 3 October 2017. At this meeting no questions or queries were received in relation to any design aspects or the 80:20 model.

We requested a space in the Bo Kaap to put up the development plans / proposals and run consultations with the local community in Bo Kaap.

We originally wanted a mechanism to make the inclusionary units available to current and previous members of the Bo Kaap, thereby strengthening this community by increasing occupation and ownership.

The Civic and Ratepayers unwillingness to engage with a developer by the rate payers has compromised multiple opportunities for dialogue and engagement.

A group calling themselves the Lion Street Residents contacted us and we requested on multiple occasions to meet with them, unfortunately they refused our request and said they would leave it to the Bo Kaap rate Payers Association to resolve.

Click here our response to the request for increased time for public consultation on the advertising of the departures (a request made by the rate payers).

Public Workshops: 8 The Urban Working Group (UWG) workshops were hosted by a Blok Representative and Future Cape Town, which included over 50 interested parties, practitioners and professionals to understand our proposal in further detail and to critique the building and model, as well as to share our research done to date. Much of the feedback received in these workshops helped guide and advance the model to ensure it was a scalable proposal in the future. 

All of this information has been made available online to benefit future public participation processes and pilot project processes, and can be found within the Consultation Process tab.

Meeting / Consultations: A further 12 consultations were arranged with the record of consultations available those requesting it and these included city officials, policy makers and department heads which included substantial hours of preparation and post work and a commitment to learning and engagement.

Through this, we established a goal with the City to share our learnings directly with the City of Cape Town's Inclusionary Housing Policy, which is being drafted in 2018.

Marketing: A strategic marketing campaign was conducted, including local newspapers, ensuring the development was broadly communicated with ongoing requests to join UWG or to get in touch direct.

Lectures and Presentations: Other opportunities to share the project included a presentation during the Affordable Housing series hosted by the Association of Planners, Engineers and Surveyors (APES)

 

2. Departures

When it comes to parking and densification, our current social, political and urban environment leaves us with no justifiable right or reason to fight against increased density and relaxed parking requirements. Society has an irrational fear of development and of losing cobbled paving. There is also the idea that all citizens have a right to and are entitled to parking, leaving people without cars subsiding those with cars, and as urbanists this goes against the idea of progress and change. 

We consider these groups of people as essentially fighting progress and change, or as noted by Rashiq Fataar of Future Cape Town, “many continue to use arguments around density, height and heritage to pursue a hidden anti-transformation agenda, which is subsequently reflected in our disastrous built environment landscape, that no professional in the planning or design profession could be proud of."

The city is not immutable and it most certainly is not frozen in time. Positive progress and change making interventions through small pilot projects and new development models are required to step away from challenges facing our society and try to create a new narrative that steps away from “not in my neighbourhood” and into a more inclusive growth trajectory.

Our reading of the application, against many of the objections received, shows potentially a misreading of the plans submitted, which we are ready to clarify and discuss.

 

3. Design

The design of the building has been mis-represented in the campaign which was drafted 1 week before the deadline of the comment period, in contrast to the engagement process which spanned most of 2017. This has been the result or engineering of the ongoing charge for clickbait activism (again spearheaded by the anti-change team), a more thorough engagement with the building will show how it responds to the site and surrounds in an effective manner.

Below are a series of images that show the building in its immediate context which might give more insight into its scale and which more accurately reflects the building within its context relative to the images being used by those objecting.

FORTY ON L within its context

 

FORTY ON L within its context

 

The North-East elevation of FORTY ON L

 

The South-West elevation of FORTY ON L

 

The North-East corner of the building within its context

 

The South-East corner of the building within its context

 

The South-West corner of the building within its context

 

The relationship of the apartments on the Military Road façade to the street 

 

Instead of building a large, aesthetically unappealing apartment block, which would still be within the bulk rights afforded to the site, or a sprawling estate on the periphery, Blok launched a building that incorporates the modern interpretation of row-house and terracing of the Bo Kaap on a large, sloped site. It maintains active street access to units on the ground floor (rather than hostile walls / parking), there are front doors and stoeps with overlooking balconies from above.

The building introduces shared open spaces on terraces that integrate with existing old cobble stairways and open itself up to one of the Bo Kaap’s signature access stairs. It also gives further access into the building’s primary large terrace that essentially breaks the building into two halves.

The building has not utilised the maximum envelope of the DMS scheme and regularly steps away from boundary edges, height limitations and de-constructs itself to break down the larger form.

Substantial additional funds have been spent ensuring the parking is not visible from the street edges, something that would be fundamentally detrimental to the urban fabric. Additionally, we included into the design a typical local “semi private” road that would act as a positive threshold between the public and private spaces of the building, something that the Bo Kaap needs to retain and should be brought into even more communities and neighbourhoods.

 

As Mark Swilling, a member of UNEP’s International Resource Panel and Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development at Stellenbosch University notes:

“After all, the biggest challenge we face globally is a century-long trend towards de-densification that has resulted in massive urban sprawl, often into valuable farming land that generates important food supplies for the city. Encouraging middle class people to desire to live in 4 to 8 story buildings where they can use public transport or non-motorised transport to get to work must surely be regarded as a progressive move.

The alternative to this is to keep the middle class in their suburbs where they spend their money not in socially mixed high streets, but closed malls usually only reachable by car.”

It is acknowledged that no solution for any site is perfect, but Blok believes through enormous hard work and diligence we have created a development that works incredibly hard to mesh a larger building into a varied scale environment whilst respecting the multiple design, urban cues and forms available from the existing context. All of this while running a consultation process, which is far beyond what is required by law and developing and piloting Cape Town’s first inclusionary housing project done by the private sector on private land, with no incentive from the public sector. 

By challenging the existing structures and processes at the City, and innovating within a tired and difficult space within the urban economy, FORTY ON L has evolved as a unique pilot project and opportunity for the private sector to deliver a sustainable community and mixed-incoming housing solution.

The importance of these solutions is emphasised by in an article on The World Economic Forum, written by Jonathan T.M. Teckford, CEO, Habitat for Humanity International:

Even those earning higher wages – particularly essential service workers like fire fighters, teachers, entry-level government workers and hospital workers – find it impossible to live near the places they work and the communities they serve. Gentrification and gated communities in urban centres are driving up costs and pushing people to the periphery of the city, where they are then faced with the additional cost and time burdens of commuting. Internationally, the workforce is often driven away from urban centres into outlying, informal settlements. When the sense of community is weakened and segregation among economic groups grows, myriad social problems can result.”

The primary opportunity that has been missed by most of the objectors is to positively engage with an available, creative developer and add further to this opportunity over the past 8-12 months. Whilst many claim to be in favour of progress, few actually commit to efforts of change, particularly when the change is occurring in your backyard. 

Our doors remain open for further dialogue and engagement, and we are happy to host further workshops if necessary. 

An inclusionary housing development model which incentivises developers to add a percentage of more affordable apartments to an existing development, targeted at the middle-income market. 

Developers apply to the local city council for additional building rights on their existing development known as a bulk departure. This bulk departure falls within the zoning scheme and is well within the maximum envelope that could be built on the site as defined by the setbacks and height restrictions.

They then allocate this bulk on a 1-for-1 basis, which means that for every square metre of inclusionary housing added, the developer can add a square metre to the original scheme.

As part of the extensive consultation procss which involved input from the local city council, it was suggested that the model should be scalable so that developers should be incentivised to introduce more affordable units into their developments, while improving the overall viability of the project. It was felt that this amendment to the model would act as a stronger incentive than the 80:20 ratio model.

It is the site of Blok’s development where the inclusionary development model will be piloted. It is located at 40 Lion Street, Bo Kaap.

It comprises the original scheme of 54 open-market apartments (already launched for sale) and will use the bulk departure to add:

  • 400 sqm for 11 more affordable apartments and
  • 400 sqm for more open-market apartments

Affordable housing can be defined as housing units which are affordable by the section of society whose income is below the neighbourhood’s median household income or whose income would not qualify the household for finance to apply for the open-market units in a particular development.

It is a form of affordable housing supplied by the private sector to a market whose household income is not sufficient to grant them access to finance or a bond for a particular development on the open market, or where their income range would not give them access to purchase housing in a well-located area within which the development takes place. 

They will be priced at 30-50% lower than the sale value of open-market apartments within the overall development and the development is in a well-located part of Cape Town.

Currently, the average 1 and 2 bedroom prices in the Cape Town CBD require an income range of R70,000 to R150,000 a month to qualify for a bond or loan financing. The more affordable apartments in FORTY ON L will be targeting a combined or household income range of R15,000 to R45,000 per month.

While the prices have not yet been finalised, the apartments’ prices will be between 30-50% lower than the prices of similar open-market apartments in FORTY ON L.

The 1 bedroom apartments will be approximately 35-40 sqm and the 2 bedrooms will be approximately 50-55 sqm.

Yes, a common shared space towards the centre of the development will be accessible to all homeowners and includes a deck, pool, laundry and a gym.

Yes. While they do not finance, design or build the development, the model requires the support and buy-in of the local city council to obtain the additional development rights. It is then the role of the developer to finance/design/build/sell and the participating community in the project to inform the criteria for qualification and provide general support for the development.

This is achieved through a cross-subsidisation where the open-market units in the development subsidise certain costs. i.e. these cots are not allocated to the inclusionary housing units. These costs include the cost of the land, interest costs, holding costs, finance costs and various service fees related to the development such as engineers, architects, planning and more.

They will be sold through an open-draw system, after households have been through a prequalification process with a 3rd party independent financial institution.

The apartments will be made available to first time buyers only, and households will qualify for certain apartments based on their total household income and household size (the number of people living in the household).

Yes, however a restriction on the sale value will apply for a period expected to be between 15 and 20 years. This is done to ensure that these apartments remain within the targeted middle income market, rather than being bought, flipped for profit and ending up in the market-related space.

The design was guided by a Contextual and Urban Fabric Analysis prepared by an independent third party firm. You can download the report here.