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Thursday Jul 03, 2014

South African city sprawl continues unabated

The latest construction statistics show a mismatch between public policy to densify residential areas and private building trends.

City sprawl effectively entrenches the spatial inequality of apartheid, which put the poorest furthest from jobs, transport and other opportunities, Statistics SA (Stats SA) says.

'If densification is what human settlements and public policy intends, at least in the case of the Joburg metro and Mangaung (Bloemfontein), it's not happening,' statistician-general Pali Lehohla said yesterday.

A similar pattern of urban sprawl had also emerged in Cape Town.

His comments were illustrated by a comparison of Joburg's population between the census 2001 and 2011. Instead of the densification of housing in central areas, more residents lived further out.

The Stats SA report on selected building statistics of the private sector was based on local government planning approvals. This raised questions about whether state spending on capital infrastructure triggered matching private sector investment - something the government has repeatedly said it hoped would happen as part of joint efforts to kick-start economic growth and development.

Lehohla said there was not enough information on such a relationship between public-private investment.

Human Settlements spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya told the Cape Argus there was a trend for farm plots on the edge of cities to be sold off for private residential estates and golf courses. Also, municipalities did not implement policies to ensure cheap housing and rental stock was available in urban areas, even though this had been the government's policy direction for more than five years.

'There is an urgent need to go back to the basics of the breaking new ground strategy,' he said, referring to the human settlements policy instituted in Minister Lindiwe Sisulu's first stint in that portfolio some years ago.

The policy includes integrating state-subsidised housing with rental and bonded homes, and combining different housing types in one area alongside improved municipal services, community health, education and commercial facilities.

It was important municipalities planned for the arrival of the working class in central areas through rental and affordable housing, to avoid the creation of informal settlements.

Mabaya said Sisulu was meeting housing-related roleplayers, including private land owners' associations and the SA Local Government Association (Salga) to tackle housing challenges.

Yesterday's Stats SA briefing showed planning approvals worth R86.1 billion were passed last year. Gauteng was in the top spot with approved building plans valued at R35.3bn, followed by the Western Cape (R18.6bn) and KwaZulu-Natal (R13.8bn).

Six of the nine metros accounted for just over two-thirds of the total value of approved building plans. Tshwane was tops (R14.7bn), followed by Cape Town ( R13.9bn), Ekurhuleni (R9.7bn), eThekwini (R9.6bn), Joburg (R7bn) and Nelson Mandela Bay (R2.7bn).

Cape Argus


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