Cape Town challenged to build affordable housing

Written by by Jaclyn Reid, CNN Despite urban sprawl, a surge in residential construction and flight of residents to the suburbs, there are some cities in the world that still lack affordable housing. It’s…

Cape Town challenged to build affordable housing

Written by by Jaclyn Reid, CNN

Despite urban sprawl, a surge in residential construction and flight of residents to the suburbs, there are some cities in the world that still lack affordable housing.

It’s a situation that’s reached a tipping point in Cape Town, which until 2018 had topped the list of most expensive cities worldwide for renters. A new report showed that when adjusted for average incomes, the cost of housing is now higher than in the previous year for Cape Town residents.

The city government of Cape Town is trying to reduce housing costs, with an ambitious program to build 120,000 new apartments and housing development throughout the city.

But it’s not just the Cape Town government feeling the pinch. Leading international real estate company Knight Frank took to Facebook to ask followers of its real estate site if the city should see new construction start. The exchange has been viewed over 300,000 times and been praised by over 10,000 people.

Knight Frank shared the question on its own Facebook page, calling on users to come up with ideas for Cape Town. Users responded with their ideas.

Some criticized the government for backing off from making changes to low-income housing that would slow the runaway rise in property prices.

“This would be the first city in the world to have a mandatory price freeze on properties above the threshold to allow poor people to afford to live there,” wrote Deborah Capelbeet. “That I think would be an absolute necessity and hugely beneficial.”

Photo shows some of the Cape Town residences under construction. Credit: CPA

Another commenter, Damian Chesson, shared a similar message: “We need to put housing for the poor at the top of the agenda.”

Another worried about the government’s action not being the right move, asking if simply leaving the price of land, housing and construction unchanged will not solve the problem.

“…Without any intervention the city is in grave danger of losing its highest-earning citizens who will leave and no one will come in to take their place,” wrote one critic.

All in the air

Cape Town’s housing situation isn’t unique, however. The issue has been affecting a variety of cities across the world and has a long history, not only in its effect on the affordability of housing, but also its impact on local communities.

In Hong Kong, the problem has grown since the economic boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, leading to a building boom and a concentration of condos in the densely populated downtown area. The area’s high-rise buildings have created an infamously polluted air, and it is common to hear residents speak of the environmental issues caused by the urban sprawl.

Residents of Hong Kong’s Central neighborhood can’t breathe the air. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

In Los Angeles, a similar high-rise building boom was followed by the massive destruction caused by the 2007-2009 recession. It eventually became too expensive for many residents to live in the middle of the city, forcing them to live in expensive neighborhoods outside of the area.

Deforestation and high deforestation rates are putting people at risk of dying from natural gas poisoning, as an environmental group reported in 2014.

Photo shows the beauty of Los Angeles skyline in 2015. Credit: ALESSANDRO MITTA/AFP/Getty Images

In cities like Berlin, the high real estate prices of the post-World War II years has forced the government to take action. The so-called “Bagel Manifesto” set out a series of measures that are designed to curb speculative buying and help people save money on housing, which the government hopes will speed up the market for affordable housing.

Cape Town’s government has also been attempting to find ways to lower costs in the city, such as increasing payments for rent.

Photo shows inner Stockholm, where high real estate prices have led to a high density of high-rise apartments. Credit: Pixabay

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