Low-cost housing project not an election ploy: council

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

The eThekwini municipality yesterday dismissed concerns that the massive low-cost housing project, near a plush Umhlanga suburb north of Durban, was an election ploy by the ANC-led municipality.

City manager Michael Sutcliffe was responding to claims by the Democratic Alliance that the timing of the project so close to the election was "suspicious".

DA caucus leader John Steenhuisen also expressed concern that the municipality's negotiations with the developer, Tongaat Hulett, included an "expropriation of land" clause if the deal did not go the the council's way.

"We support effective public-private partnerships," Steenhuisen. said. "But we believe this clause shows that the municipality is acting in bad faith.

"The timing of this project is an election tactic. It is being fast-tracked as an election ploy.

"Electoral pressure is evident from the fact that the environmental assessment study and rezoning of the land have yet to be completed."

Sutcliffe said the project had been in the pipeline for the past seven years.

"I had a meeting with the developers last week and I am happy with the negotiations," he said. "The concept plan for the project has been in place for two years.

"We are waiting for a mandate from exco to finalise the negotiations either through agreement or through purchase."

Sutcliffe said expropriation was an option that would be considered if the deal fails. He said it was not in his mandate "to do things for political reasons".

He said the land has the potential of generating more than 73000 units, and the municipality intended building 25000 low- and middleincome units in the first phase of the project.

Yesterday Tongaat Hulett confirmed it was working with the municipality "to develop a sustainable solution" to the affordable housing needs of the region.

Business expert Bonke Dumisa said the city had the prerogative to decide where to place its housing projects.

"The time when blacks were placed far from city centres is gone," he said. "It is unfair for experts to even suggest that this project will devalue their properties.

"As long as the project does not distort good town planning policies, it should not pose any danger to other properties."