Mayors Voices: Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille on financing and delivering sustainable and inclusive transit-oriented development

By: Patricia de Lille, Mayor of Cape Town

Transport for Cape Town, the City of Cape Town’s transport authority, recently hosted the first ever C40 workshop focusing on the challenges South African member cities face in financing and delivering sustainable and inclusive transit-oriented development (TOD).

The workshop marked the start of an important, cooperative effort between C40’s four South African cities – Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Tshwane – to tackle climate change and create more connected, efficient and liveable cities.

This was a defining and unifying moment, where it again became apparent that cities can and are taking the lead in finding innovative solutions to implementing sustainable strategies to achieve spatial transformation and urban efficiency.

It was encouraging to hear how cities were talking about collaborating with one another in implementing TOD projects and not waiting on other spheres of government.

For Cape Town it is important for the cities to learn from each other to find solutions for TOD financing that are designed to fit the legislative and regulatory environment of South African cities.

The Financing TOD workshop was organized by C40, with funding from the Ford Foundation and supported by Financing Sustainable Cities, an initiative of C40, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, and the Citi Foundation. The workshop focused on helping cities identify new funding and financial instruments to support each city’s spatial development plans. Over two days, city and planning officials worked with external finance experts to explore ways to drive greater investment in public transport, affordable housing, mixed-use development, and non-motorized transport infrastructure.

764 unknown.original                                                    South African city officials, financial experts and representatives from C40 gathered in Cape Town for the Financing TOD workshop.

By creating financeable strategies that deliver greater access to economic opportunity while maximizing the ability for walking, biking and public transportation, we can provide solutions that are both inclusive and good for the environment.

In Cape Town we recently adopted a TOD Strategic Framework, which incorporates a transit-optimized land-use scenario for the city, linking communities to economic opportunities through public transport.

Our TOD Strategic Framework prescribes how new developments across Cape Town should address apartheid spatial inequality, urbanisation and the high cost of public transport, while also stimulating economic growth.

The workshop was ideal timing for us to work with our South African colleagues to start to develop innovative tools and mechanisms to implement the catalytic projects needed to deliver our strategic aims.

Like most cities around the world, we have limited municipal budgets and a long list of services to deliver to our citizens.  

Several major TOD projects have been identified in the City of Cape Town which all form part of our plans to mitigate climate change – but these projects require extra funding.

It is now time to walk the talk.

One financing model Cape Town is pursuing will leverage its assets (City-owned land) to lure the private sector to come on board and make further investments in our TOD projects.

We have already employed this innovative approach with our Foreshore Freeway Project, where we called on the private sector to come up with proposals on the condition that their plans must provide affordable housing, address congestion and find a solution for the unfinished freeways.

The City of Cape Town is also currently finalising its list of new and existing climate action projects to be funded by a green bond. These projects will be certified by the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) before the City goes to market.  

Cape Town, with the assistance of C40, has taken the lead to initiate this important conversation about financing sustainable, transit-oriented development projects. Each city left the workshop with new ideas to accelerate the implementation of their transit-oriented development plans and, perhaps even more importantly, new connections to a network of colleagues across South Africa who share common goals.

We all want to create sustainable, low carbon cities where our citizens live, work and thrive. Through ongoing collaboration with our South African colleagues and other C40 member cities around the world, we can make this happen quicker and more effectively than if we act alone.