Cape Town housing plans gets the thumbs-up

2017-07-18 19:12
Reclaim the City activists initially prevented from entering an affordable housing conference in Cape Town. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Reclaim the City activists initially prevented from entering an affordable housing conference in Cape Town. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - After half an hour of pushing to get into an affordable housing conference on Tuesday, Reclaim the City activists were happy to hear that 10 inner-city sites would be developed for the poor.

“This is a victory for people who are being priced out of well-located areas or facing eviction,” the lobby group said in a statement. Earlier, they clashed with staff at the African Pride Hotel, near Gardens, who objected to them entering without paying.

A conference organiser and some staff tried to stop them from entering to listen to councillor Brett Herron's speech. Eventually they were allowed to file in with posters that had the slogan “Stop Evictions Now”.

“It shows the power that residents have when they organise together to resist injustice and demand change,” Reclaim the City said.

Many of its members are familiar faces from the Woodstock Hospital and Helen Bowden Nurses’ Home. They are occupying some of the abandoned wards and rooms to demonstrate that the city does not have to send the homeless to the Wolwerivier and Blikkiesdorp transitional camps, up to 30km outside the Cape Town CBD.

The 10 city-owned sites marked for affordable housing are in Salt River, Woodstock, and in the city centre, Herron said in his address to the Fourth Annual Affordable Housing Conference. He is the city's mayoral committee member for urban development and transport.

Three of the sites have already been allocated to social housing institutions and the statutory land-use applications are underway.

Two erven along Pine Road in Woodstock, close to the city centre, will be developed first, followed by another six along Dillon Lane, also in Woodstock.

The proposed developments would be a two- to four-storey mixture of studio flats and one- and two-bedroom units meant to provide about 240 state-subsidised housing units for people already on the housing waiting list.

To qualify, the beneficiaries have to earn less than R15 000 a month and be able to pay rent.

Another 476 subsidised rental units are planned for the Salt River Market in Albert Road, also close to the CBD.

These will vary from subsidised social housing for those earning less than R15 000 a month, to rentals for households with a monthly income of between R3500 to R20 000.

Minimise disruptions

Retail and office space will form part of this development to cross-subsidise the housing.

Again, beneficiaries have to be registered on the city's housing data base to qualify and meet certain criteria, like earning less than a certain amount.

There are currently 350 000 people on the housing waiting list. This is expected to rise to 650 000 families by 2032, Herron said.

The plans he was discussing form part of the city's efforts to reverse apartheid-era planning, which allowed only whites to live in the CBD, while everybody else was uprooted and moved to the outskirts.

But, music to the activists' ears was the council's intention to develop the city's first inner-city transitional housing site in Salt River, less than 5km from the city's CBD. Herron hoped this would be approved at the next council meeting on July 29.

If so, it would be a breakthrough for people facing eviction by developers in the city's older areas. Some developers are cashing in on the demand by professionals for stylish inner city lock-up-and-go apartments.

People evicted from these cheap rental units to make way for developers are usually relocated to Wolwerivier and Blikkiesdorp if they cannot afford to carry on renting in the area.

A number of Constitutional Court precedents have established that councils are responsible for helping poor evictees find alternative accommodation.

However, in at least two eviction cases involving Woodstock residents, the city is being challenged to house them close to the area they already live in, to minimise disruptions to their lives.

Although the activists welcomed Herron's announcement, at an impromptu meeting with him after his speech, they wanted to know when they would see the promised housing.

“What I was talking about today is not going to happen overnight, unfortunately,” he said.

The city is considering changing planning laws to allow more than one dwelling to be built on one stand, he said.

Read more on:    cape town  |  housing

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