Patience runs thin as Tafelberg housing comment period is extended

Cape Town - Joane Louw has worked in Sea Point for 31 years and sees herself as part of the community. But a lack of lower-income housing means she will never be able to own a home in the sought-after suburb as she does not earn enough to afford property there.


The 51-year-old single mother was among a handful of domestic workers who protested outside the Western Cape department of public works' Cape Town offices, after it granted a two-week extension to the deadline for comment on the financial model for social housing on the Tafelberg Remedial School site, a 1.7 hectare erf owned by provincial government.

The group, all members of Reclaim the City, said the extension was an unnecessary delay.

According to the organisation, the provincial transport and public works department sold the Tafelberg school site to a private entity in late 2015.

This, they said on their website, in spite of a request from Western Cape human settlements department that it be reserved for affordable housing, and a government supported feasibility study which concluded that the site was suitable for a social housing development of up to 341 affordable residential units.

In May the matter reached a turning point when the Western Cape High Court ordered that the sale of the site to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School for R135m be halted and that the provincial government open a public participation process.

Extension allegedly for buyer's benefit

On July 29 the provincial cabinet asked for a new feasibility study on the use of the site for social housing.

This was concluded in November, and the public had until January 31 to comment.

Department spokesperson Byron la Hoe confirmed the deadline had been extended to February 10.

He was unable to confirm the reason for this, referring queries to the Premier's office.

Spokesperson Michael Mpofu was not immediately available to comment.

According to Reclaim the City, the deadline was extended after the potential buyer of the prime property argued they had not had enough time to study the financial model.

Louw was part of the group which gathered outside the department's offices on Dorp Street on Wednesday afternoon, where staff locked the doors as the protesters lined up on the pavement.

"I have lived in Sea Point for many, many years. At one point I moved away and spent a fortune on travelling, then I decided to move back. I know this place – I haven't been here since yesterday. This is my home too," she said.

She pays R3 000 rent for the flat she and her daughter, 10, stay in.

Others, she said, live in quarters on their employers' properties.

Years-long struggle

Her dream is to finally buy her own home in the suburb.

"There is a piece of land to accommodate us. Why can't we also be close to where we work? A low-cost development means people like me who don't earn big salaries can also own a house."

In a statement read by a representative of the organisation, it said its supporters had "worked tirelessly" to complete a community submission, which included feedback from Sea Point residents and low-income earners.

Their submission was delivered to the department on Monday, which was the original deadline.

"The submission's demands were endorsed by over 700 people online and at Reclaim the City's #Tafelberg270 Rally for Affordable Housing at the Sea Point promenade on Sunday," it said.

The two-week extension was an unnecessary delay to a final decision, the group said.

"Sea Point's domestic workers and other black and coloured low-income earners have struggled for many years for decent, affordable, state-subsidised housing in their home community," it said.

"They have waited patiently and engaged constructively during the unfolding process towards [the] province's decision on whether the Tafelberg site would be reserved for affordable housing. But their patience is now running thin."

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