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Nov 11, 2005

Local professionals describe N2 Gateway as 'expensive joke'

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Construction|Building|Business|Engineering|Fire|Housing|PROJECT|Roads|Water|Infrastructure
Construction|Building|Business|Engineering|Fire|Housing|PROJECT|Roads|Water|Infrastructure
construction|building|business|engineering|fire|housing|project|roads|water|infrastructure
Cape Town’s N2 Gateway project is supposed to deliver 22 000 houses by July next year, but fewer than 190 units have been built, and less than 10% of these have been handed over to occupiers.

The 22 000 houses will be created by upgrading established housing and building new homes along the N2 highway from the Cape Town International Airport offramp towards Cape Town. In February this year, the city’s mayor, Nomaindia Mfeketo, said in a speech: “The N2 Gateway is a big, bold project to . . . bring housing of quality to the poor of our city on a scale which has not been on the agenda before. “Over 22 000 houses will be built as part of this project within very tight timeframes. Everything is now in place – the money, the business plan and the contractors – to make this a reality. It will make an important impact on the housing backlog in this city.” The R2,3-billion project was conceived of following the successful 2010 soccer World Cup bid and initially attracted expressions of interest from 19 consortia nationwide, each consisting of teams of planners, construction companies, architects and engineers. The list was finally narrowed down to four – Sombabisane, Iboili, Bathodi and Vula. A devastating fire in the Joe Slovo informal settlement resulted in Sombabisane being given the green light for the construction of fast-track housing near Langa. Thus far, about 190 units have been constructed but remain unoccupied, seemingly owing to a lack of infrastructure, namely roads, electricity and water. A complicating issue is that massive pressure is being exerted on the authorities to give the units to those who have been waiting the longest, rather than the former Joe Slovo residents who were victims of the fire. No construction of any significance has begun on any other sites, and the site for which planning is most advanced – Boystown – is unlikely to be completed before March next year.

No reason can be given for the lack of con-struction progress. An email to the mayor was referred to project manger Roger Davids, who failed to answer any of the written questions posed by Engineering News. All of the consortia have signed agreements of confidentiality and will not comment. Unofficial comments by local professionals are that the planning process of the City of Cape Town is “hopelessly flawed” and is “an expen-sive joke”.

On a broader scale, the Western Cape provincial housing department has had its worst year in ten years; 43 000 houses were built in the province in 1997, with fewer than 16 000 being built in 2005.

Patrick Mackenzie, chairperson of the provin-cial standing committee on governance, is quoted as saying that, “between 1994 and 2000, the depart- ment built over 1 300 000 houses” and that “never in the history of the province has it been this bad”.

Cape Town currently has a housing backlog of between 220 000 and 260 000 houses.
Edited by: Terry Mackenzie-hoy

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