Dozens of people took to the streets of Woodstock on Saturday 16 July during a “Empty Plots and Promises Commemoration Walking Tour” which was hosted by Reclaim the City in partnership with Ndifuna Ukwazi to lament the city’s “failure to deliver” affordable housing on 11 sites in Woodstock, Salt River and the inner city.
The peaceful march was attended by members from Reclaim the City, Singabalapa, Salt River Heritage Society and Woodstock and Salt River residents among other.
The 11 Sites are: Pickwick Road Transitional Housing (Salt River), Pine Road Social Housing (Salt River), Dillon Road Social Housing (Salt River), Salt River Market (Salt River), remainder of Pickwick Road (Woodstock), New Market Street (Woodstock), Upper Canterbury Street (inner city), Fruit and Veg site (inner city) James Street (Salt River), Woodstock Hospital and Woodstock Hospital Park.
Proceedings started at Cissie Gool house (CGH) (formerly known as the Woodstock Hospital) where protestors walked to four of the 11 sites earmarked for social housing. These sites were The Greens, Dillon Lane, Pick Wick Street and Albert Road.
During the walk members also shared their lived experiences of growing up in Woodstock and how they were evicted.
Karen Hendricks, a Reclaim the City Leader, says: “The empty plots and promises are about 11 sites which were earmarked for affordable housing in 2017 on 18 July. There has been a true lack of progress on all of these sites. After five years of these empty promises, we want to know why there has been a lack of progress of these sites.”
She says this while there is a massive housing crisis in the city.
“We have a housing crises and people are being evicted around Woodstock and Salt River and the only alternatives that the city has for people that are being evicted is to push them out onto the periphery to places like Wolverivier and Blikkiesdorp.”
Hendricks says the walk was to bring awareness on how people were displaced from Woodstock because of the high rise in rentals.
Elaine Dedericks, is one of the occupiers at CHS, she says: “I was evicted 5 years ago from where I lived because I could not afford the rent any longer. I had nowhere to go. The city promised us social housing it’s been five years and they have done nothing. They want to give us alternative accommodation in Wolverivier which is far, I need to attend day hospital each month, how will I travel from there to here?”
Hendricks also lashed out at the housing registry which he claims is faulty.
“When it comes to the housing needs registry, some people have been waiting on this registry for more than 30 years. And there is no surety from the side of government as to whether all those people qualify for the much-needed housing.”
Hendricks to are hoping for “some kind of accountability” from the city regarding these sites.
“We are hoping to achieve the support of others. it cannot be that Cape Town is in a housing crisis and people are being criminalised for going to occupy pieces of land. We need the public to know why we are fighting for affordable housing and we need them to know what the housing crisis is about.”
During the city’s first affordable housing indaba in April this year, Premier Alan Winde said by 2030, Cape Town will see a population increase of about 1,4 million. He also added that the province currently has a housing backlog of 568 000 and this number is growing rapidly.
Denver Arendse, a Reclaim the City Chapter Leader, says occupations like CGH, and its sibling occupation Ahmed Kathrada House in Green Point, are seen as the only housing opportunity for poor and working class people who need access to the City.
“It is home to the elderly, single women-led families, as well as domestic workers, teachers, garment workers and craftsmen who work close-by. It’s been five years since we are waiting and not one brick has been laid. We want to make the public aware that the city is liable, and we should keep them accountable towards the people.”
After the walk members were invited to watch the screening of “City Occupied”, a documentary on the CGH occupation by Sara CF de Gouveia.