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Bridge Beat

Aug 14, 2019

DURBAN DIARIES on Affordable Housing - #1

Affordable housing expert John Fox, of Toronto law firm Robins Appleby, is among the Canadians who have been asked by Durban, South Africa, to lend their expertise to the regeneration of their Inner City.

Durban, South Africa, is getting ready for massive inner core growth

Durban (known here by its Zulu name eThekwini) is the third largest City in South Africa, and it has some serious re-development ambitions.

According to its City Plan, it expects to see an increase in population in its Inner City currently accommodates 60,000-70,000 people. Over the next 20 years, it expects that number to grow to 450,000. That’s more than a 6-fold increase.

Don’t read « Inner City » to mean what you think of in North America. The Inner City here contains the main sports facilities and the beach along with pretty dilapidated buildings, animated markets, and some pretty nice looking development sites. It’s a study in contrasts taken as a whole.

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Two awesomely different parts of the Inner City: the Warwick Market area and the view from my hotel room. Great running there in the morning - especially if you like monkeys. Confession: I don’t like monkeys.

Problems of Durban’s Inner City

Part of the plan is the regeneration of several districts in the Inner City catalyzed by the addition of social housing stock in order to make sure that the Inner City has places for residents in different income brackets. Having housing for people in different income brackets is something that all large cities struggle with, including Toronto. 

One of the big questions is:  how best to engage with the private sector to help deliver that.

The Canadian Team of affordable housing experts

The first set of meetings was held in rooms at the Moses Mahbida stadium, which provided the back drop for the picture you see below. (If you are an adrenaline junkie, as in you’re a little nuts, you can actually bungee-jump off the roof of this stadium.)

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Caption: Toronto readers will recognize  Councillor Shelley Carroll in the front. Also from Canada are Bob Cohen of Montreal and Abi Bond of  Vancouver. My former Toronto Community Housing colleague Lizette Zuniga is also in the front row. She stationed in South Africa with Rooftops.

The John Fox backstory

A few months ago, I spoke to a group of visiting South Africans about the Regent Park redevelopment and the ​relationship between Toronto Community Housing and the Daniels Corporation. Two weeks later, Rooftops Canada, which organizes these exchanges, invited me to join a Canadian delegation to South Africa to talk about structuring deals with private partners.

Don’t get me wrong, the eThekwini team is sophisticated, committed to housing and knows what it wants to achieve. For the Canadian team - our objective is to put our knowledge and expertise at their service and see if we can help them meet their objectives. I’ll be filling readers in through the week.

And that’s why I am here this week in eThekwini.


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