By Annisa Essack
The eThekwini Municipality identified the Star Seaside Children’s Home near the Elangeni Hotel to build social housing. The city plans to partially demolish the building to make way for a proposed social housing project that accommodates residents who need affordable housing.
The controversial proposal for the prime beachfront location was mooted a few years ago and has long garnered negative responses from residents, and is now being slammed by a political party and a hospitality organisation. Both believe that the move will impact tourism and accelerate the flight of businesses to the north of the city.
The municipality has not provided full details of the housing project; however, the city says some critical processes like public participation had been completed.
The site is among several in the CBD under consideration by the municipality for refurbishment into social housing facilities to make affordable rental accommodation available to households with monthly incomes in the range of R3 500 to R15 000.
However, the proposed housing development faces criticism. The DA says the land in question is prime real estate, and the city could derive more economic benefit from it. Economist Professor Bonke Dumisa shares the sentiment, saying such a move can damage even some existing tourism businesses in the area.
Dumisa said while there was a need to build social housing and bring black people closer to opportunities, it would not be strategic to make a housing development on the site.
“The land is valuable land that the city could sell for millions; it could build hotels, from which the city could generate rates. If there is a premier hotel and next to it is a housing project, who would go to that hotel?”
He said the beachfront area was already struggling to hang on to its clientèle. He said that business people come to the CBD to do business but prefer to stay in places like uMhlanga.
The Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) has also said building social housing on the prime site was a bad idea.
Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela of the Star Seaside home says that the choice of residence for many low-income families was very limited in South Africa.
“The building requires repairs and maintenance and has not been in use for several years now. It is in a derelict condition and an eyesore and has fallen into a severe state of disrepair.”
He added that the vacant portion of the land on the eastern side could accommodate numerous new multi-storey buildings. The site can also accommodate parking and vehicular circulation with ease, depending on the use and town planning requirements.
“There is great potential in this property to develop into Social Rental Housing and provide residential opportunities for low and moderate-income households.”
DA councillor Nicole Graham said the party always advocated for the city to develop housing where people can access work, public transport and services.
She also voiced concern regarding the scant information made available to the public regarding the public’s views on the issue.
“There are other sites that could still achieve the same outcome available nearby. I’d be interested to know what the public participation was; there has been a lot of concern about the development areas.”
There are plans to build more than 8 000 housing units in other parts of the city, including uMgeni Road, Albert Park, Warwick bus depot, Block AK west of Gladys Manzi Road, the old Durban Drive-In site and near the table tennis building in Epsom Road.
The Star Seaside Children’s Home was built in the 1970s and was used as a children’s holiday home for predominantly white children during the school holidays.