Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 51



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phenomenon of backyard dwellings, in which people
are willing to pay for cramped accommodation because
it is well located, shows that is not the case,” McGaffin
says. “In places like inner-city Joburg, the private sector
is renting out 15m2 spaces, at a rate of 98% occupancy.”
Less onerous buildings standards
According to McGaffin, the cumulative effect
of very stringent building standards has been
underestimated as a stumbling block to affordable
development.
“Obviously it’s very important for standards to
be in place when it comes to human habitation;
but a balance has to be struck between making
buildings safe to live in and making them affordable.
Otherwise, a few will get to live in safe spaces,
while those who can’t afford it will be forced to
live in dangerous buildings. If it’s just a case of red
tape, then simplifying these standards could have
a positive effective on the viability of affordable
developments,” he says.
Use of existing building stock
Repurposing existing stock into low-cost housing
would allow significant savings to be passed on to
lower-income households. “We have a habit, locally,
of using the most expensive type of development
Embedded research offers young researcher greater insight
City officials are sometimes so close to what
they’re doing, they can’t see the wood for the
trees; while academics work in a theoretical
world, where it is easy to lose sight of the
practicalities on the ground.
To bridge the divide between the academy and
practice, four UCT researchers spent three years
(from 2012 to 2015) ‘embedded’ within city
council departments, to observe how policy is
developed and implemented. Robert McGaffin,
Anna Taylor, Saul Roux and Anton Cartwright –
all linked to the African Centre for Cities (ACC)
– took part in this knowledge transfer project
sponsored by Mistra Urban Futures (MUF).
Robert McGaffin focused on the city’s space
economy within the Spatial Planning and Urban
Development Department. He noted that while
city officials were closer to the ground and
understood what the priorities were, academics
could help define the problem, to reach a better
understanding of the underlying causes.
method, namely new builds, to try and cater for the
lowest income segment of the market,” McGaffin
says. As the paper puts it, “Not only are existing
buildings cheaper, but they also make up the
bulk of the built stock in the city, and therefore
represent the best opportunity to deliver
affordable housing at scale.”
How does McGaffin see
the situation changing
in the future?
“I’m quite positive,” he
says. “I think a lot of
the suggestions in the
paper are things that
are already starting to
happen.
“Also, the good news
about a slowing
economy is the fact that
it can put the brakes on
property prices. I think
in the next several years
we will see a slowing of
the commercial market, and
this may free up some already
existing stock to be repurposed
into affordable housing.”
By Ambre Nicolson. Main image by ign11, Flickr.
Image (above) by Pixabay.
Anna Taylor looked at climate-related risks
in the Environmental Resource Management
Department and the Stormwater Sustainability
Branch. She praised this ‘embedded’ model
of research.” The conversations that (we) had
definitely hugely enriched my understanding
of some of these policy and academic ideas – I
suddenly saw them through different lenses.”
Saul Roux focused on urban energy
governance in the Energy and Climate Change
Unit. He said one of the benefits of the project
was that value was added by sharing research
interests across different disciplines.
Anton Cartwright, whose project focused
on the green economy, said the ideas he
worked with throughout the three years were
ways the green economy could be linked to
economic theory and then translated into
budget. “Someone said to me, if you don’t exist
in the budget, you don’t exist in the City,” he
observed.
Read the full story here.
Zero hunger, sustainable cities and responsible consumption 46

FlickrPixabayAfrican Centre for Citieshere





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