The Pursuit of Urban Justice: Managing processes of decline and regeneration in Salt River, Cape Town

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Since the 1990s, Salt River has undergone significant changes to its socio-economic, cultural and physical structures due to the withdrawal of both public and private investments from the area. These changes are interpreted by the City of Cape Town (CoCT) as an indication that Salt River is in decline and, consequently, in need of regeneration. In response to this perception, the CoCT has developed a number of spatial frameworks and plans to guide regeneration in the area. This dissertation assesses the manner in which 'neighbourhood change' is taking place in Salt River, and how the CoCT is facilitating and managing this change. I develop a theoretical framework using Fanstein's (2010) concept of the 'just city' and consequently I establish criteria for urban justice. These are used in this research to assess the manner in which neighbourhood change is occurring in Salt River and how the CoCT is facilitating and managing this change. The main research question thus asks: How should municipal planners and policymakers engage more effectively with processes of decline and regeneration that are leading to changes in the spatial and socio-economic fabric of Salt River? The research uses the case study, oral history and discourse analysis methods to address this question. Data is collected through non-participant observation, oral history and individual semi-structured interview techniques. The focus is on capturing the views and opinions of users of Salt River; more specifically, the area's long-term residents. The research findings indicate that only the residential parts of Lower Salt River are in decline. The commercial portions of Salt River are regenerating. In adopting a minimal intervention stance in relation to the regeneration of Salt River, the CoCT has left the market to direct regeneration in the case area. Municipal planners need to take the lead in the regeneration of Salt River to ensure that social development is prioritised and that working class households do not continue bearing the costs of regeneration. I recommend that municipal planners and policy makers create a social development framework for the area in conjunction with all residents. Moreover, municipal planners and policy makers should mandate that affordable housing be kept as affordable housing in perpetuity and that one-to-one replacement policies for affordable housing be established. This will ensure that affordable housing in the area is not lost and consequently, that working class households are not displaced as property and land values in the area increase.