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PROPERTY OWNERS INVEST HEAVILY IN URBAN SPACE MANAGEMENT

In the recent past, the government (Department of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs, to be precise) has published the Integrated Urban Development Framework.  Despite the fact that City Improvement Districts have succeeded in many countries of the world, as well as our own (Cape Town has 35 such precincts, the most notable of which, with a budget of some R50 million is right in the heart of the inner city), this model of urban management has not warranted a mention.  Fortunately, the national Treasury, is very interested in ensuring that urban spaces are regenerated by public/private sector partnerships so as to stimulate metropolitan economies.    The eThekwini Municipality has also embraced the concept.

Some of the early examples of private sector involvement in precinct management were gated communities with booms controlling access points to keep residents safe.   In effect, public space was being converted into private, and it is not surprising that their establishment was viewed with opprobrium by the powers-that-be who, rightly, thought this was not the way to support the repeal of apartheid legislation as it related to group areas and the restriction of free movement, not to mention the inhibition of social cohesion in a rainbow nation.  

The desire of residents and other property users to feel secure is a powerful imperative, of course, and, sadly in many ways, the managers of CIDs (we have UIPs) have acknowledged that this is the most significant of the measures by which public spaces can be improved in South Africa.  Consequently, in our own case, a recent survey undertaken by SAPOA KZN of six UIPs and eight other precincts managed by Management Associations (which differ only in the channels through which property owners pay levies – the former to the local government first, the latter directly to the MA) revealed that the average budget allocation to security is 63% in the UIPs, three of which are located in the central city, and 36% in the other precincts which are all associated with comparatively recent greenfield developments to the north of the city.   The total amount of money spent annually on security in these precincts by the property owners is nearly R31 million, devoted solely to the management of public spaces which fall within them.  In total, these precincts spend over R73 million each year to secure, and improve public space by providing additional cleaning services, landscaping and the maintenance of facilities.   In the case of the greenfield precincts, mainly, this large amount is exceeded manifold by the initial costs of the development which, together with public funds, enabled the emergence of newer, and significantly important, commercial nodes in the city.  

The model of private sector participation in the management of public space is the only one that offers protection against decline, noticeable improvement and growth, and, where urban decay has already set in, regeneration.   We need it desperately in our inner city.  This is the heart which must be resuscitated for the welfare of the city as a whole.   Commitment to this cause on the part of both the national Treasury and the City itself, which has embraced the concept of “smart city”, is welcomed.   In the Cape Town Central City ID the property values in the precinct amounted to R6 billion in 2006.  When the current valuation is completed, it is expected to hit R35 billion, an increase of 67% in the two years since 2014.   Here, property values in the comparable area are declining, to the extent that the city’s treasury is alarmed, for the rates revenue is being severely compromised.    For all that the injection of investment in new developments has value, the importance of the brownfields cannot be ignored and the Municipality’s ambition must be to arrest the decline and make it possible for the values to rise again.  A regeneration plan is being drafted at present, but, in truth, we cannot afford to await its completion.   The time is overdue for our City to ensure that there is an enabling environment in which the resources – and not just the financial ones – of the private sector are harnessed in a partnership for the management of public space, especially in key economic and commercial nodes.  This must be done with the acknowledgement that public space must be accessible, for economic growth will not happen without inclusivity.   

Author: Andrew Layman

Submitted 08 Aug 16 / Views 672