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updated 6:54 AM SAST, Mar 14, 2031
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Phase 1 of Nelson Mandela Bay housing project under way

Government-contracted construction company Sakhisizwe broke ground on the first phase of the multibillion-rand Florida Heights integrated housing development, in Nelson Mandela Bay, last month.

According to Sakhisizwe, more than 10 000 direct and indirect jobs will be created during the five-year roll-out of the first integrated development housing scheme in the Eastern Cape, which is on vacant land overlooking Despatch.

The government-backed scheme – one of the catalytic projects identified by the national Department of Human Settlements across South Africa – is also set to be an economic injection for Despatch and neighbouring Uitenhage.

Attracting low- to middle-income residents, Phase 1 will see 1 020 housing units developed alongside community and mixed-use facilities, with Phase 2 – which is in the planning stages and is set to be completed in about 15 years’ time – to include a further 12 030 residential opportunities.

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu announced the funding last year during her Budget Vote address for the 2016/17 financial year.
Of the total provincial allocation for housing (R25-billion), more than R20-billion was allocated to the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro (NMBM), with the balance split between the King Sabata Dalindyebo municipality and the Buffalo City Metro.

In the NMBM, the money will be used to construct 64 342 houses, which will be spread across the metro, with Coega Ridge allocated 38 000 units, Walmer 12 800 units, Algoa Park 1 512 units and Florida Heights 12 030 units.

These residential units are meant for low-, middle- and high-income earners and will include a work-and-play development. At the time, the provincial African National Congress said the allocation of funds would help address the NMBM’s crippling housing backlog and unemployment.

The NMBM has a total housing backlog of over 80 000 units, according to the national Housing Development Agency’s technical assessment framework report for the Florida Heights scheme.

The Florida Heights development will be located on 50 ha of land – 23 ha of which will remain undeveloped. Of the Phase 1 units, 740 will be social housing apartments or ‘walk-ups’ for rent; 100 will be Finance-linked Individual Subsidy Programme residential units – homes sold to residents with government subsidies on the bonds; and 180 will be Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) homes and military veteran units for those living below the poverty line.

Sakhisizwe says integrated developments such as Florida Heights are the province’s first concrete moves away from government’s RDP housing schemes – a result of the Social Housing Act of 2009.

Whereas RDP developments were relegated to the outskirts of cities – far from clinics, major employment hubs and convenience stores – integrated developments include such convenience and social facilities, as well as secure access, public transport nodes and landscaped public spaces.

According to one of the urban designers on the project, Clayton Johnson-Goddard, the move was a seismic shift in government’s approach to addressing the housing backlog, as well as maximising limited resources within cities.

“At all times, integrated developments should focus on the users it serves. This approach is fundamentally different from previous planning notions,” he said. “Integrated developments should create neighbourhoods and communities that serve and benefit each aspect of a person’s livelihood – whether it be work, live or play,” Johnson-Goddard concluded.

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