Residents cautious about City plan for backyard flats

Sarepta is one of the areas that will be affected by the plan.

Kuils River residents are apprehensive about the City’s plan to let homeowners build and rent out up to eight flatlets, some in multi-storey blocks, in their backyards.

The City says the proposal for the flatlets is a new land-use category, which is not contained in the current Development Management Scheme. Based on City surveys, the maximum number of flatlets varies from six to eight.

The City’s Sub-council 21 is among areas that recently published a report with a list of neighbourhoods considered “appropriate” for the location of “small-scale rental units”. The plan will affect three areas in Kuils River: Sarepta, Gersham and Highbury.

Deputy mayor Eddie Andrews, who doubles as the mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, said the units would be second or third dwellings that people could build in their backyards to rent out.

Asked whether this had not been permitted already as an additional use right under single residential zoning in the Municipal Planning Amendment By-law, Mr Andrews said there was a difference between the proposed overlay zone for the backyard flatlets – which is the proposal that is before sub-councils for consideration – and the conditions in the by-law that allow second and third dwellings as of right.

“The overlay zoning and additional use right concepts in the City’s Development Management Scheme are zoning tools available to the City to achieve a specific outcome. The purpose of an overlay zone is to vary the development rules or use rights applicable to the base zone of a property by either stipulating more restrictive or more permissive provisions. It is typically applied to implement council approved policies,” Mr Andrews said.

The process of designating a land unit and requirements for preparing an overlay zoning were outlined in the Development Management Scheme, he said.

Although no mention is made of the eight units in the Municipal Amendment By-law, the regulations say boarding houses may only be 18 metres long.

A professional builder, who has built these flats in Khayelitsha, told Northern News 18m could allow for a three-storey building.

According to Mr Andrews, an additional use right is a permitted use right within a specified base zoning that may only be applied if the owner can demonstrate compliance with the conditions or provision of such an additional use right.

“For example, both the second dwelling and third dwelling are additional use rights, therefore permitted, subject to compliance with conditions as set out in the Development Management Scheme,” he said.

It was too early to say what would change on what was permitted and what was not, until the sub-council and ultimately council processes had been completed, he said.

“As for the floor size of the said dwellings, this will depend on the erf size, the area where the dwelling is located, etc. There is no generic answer to this question,” he said.

“The development rules of the base zoning will apply to determine the potential development envelope, for example: the distance a building must be set back from the boundary, the permitted floor space, height, etc. A dwelling unit provides for one family and if one reads the definition of a family it includes up to five unrelated persons.”

A booming phenomenon in Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and other areas, the market for backyard flats is driven by property owners who build them for additional income by way of renting.

Asked about the implications on property value, Mr Andrews said: “The premise that this initiative will have an impact on property prices is misguided and wrong.” He said the units have to comply with National Building Regulations. More details would be communicated soon, he said.

Kuils River Civic Association chair Isaac Jenecke said: “Why certain areas? Is it to keep those areas earmarked to carry the burden and preserve others?”

Conversely, he said, permitting small-scale units might reduce informal housing on the yards in exchange for fixed structures.

Mr Jenecke is concerned that there hasn’t been public participation on the idea yet and he isn’t convinced that City officials have considered the added burden on sewer infrastructure, traffic and population.

“Sarepta has a heavy exit traffic problem and there are neither MyCiTi nor Golden Arrow buses here. Our taxis do not drive into some areas here. We have a transport problem. We have asked the City about these, but we see no change? What about youth and job creation? How will the new residents live?” Mr Jenecke said.

Writing on its Facebook page, the Kuils River Highbury Foundation described the plan as “continual apartheid spatial planning”. Foundation secretary Leanne Stellenberg did not respond to questions by time of publication.

Sarepta resident Ryal Hendricks said: “This is the City’s way of getting away with not building people houses. People have been on waiting lists for so long and now they choose to be backyarders in informal backyards, but if this helps people live close to their workplaces, then I’m for it.”

Mr Andrews said several initiatives were being explored to make the process of approvals easier for home-owner, such as providing ready-to-use building plans for such units that owners could procure from the City.

He said once input had been received from all sub-councils in the metro, a report would be submitted to council, after which the public participation process could begin. The process is expected to take place later in the year.

The report currently before the sub-councils for councillors’ comment was only the beginning of a process to identify areas where small-scale rental units might be considered, he said.