Housing policy saga: Western Cape High Court rules in favour of Bromwell Street residents

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Bromwell Street residents facing eviction want the court to order the City of Cape Town to provide emergency accommodation near the inner city.
Bromwell Street residents facing eviction want the court to order the City of Cape Town to provide emergency accommodation near the inner city.
PHOTO: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp
  • The Western Cape High Court ruled in favour of Bromwell Street residents in Woodstock.
  • Ndifuna Ukwazi challenged the constitutionality of the City's housing programme.
  • Bromwell Street residents have been resisting eviction since 2014.

The Western Cape High Court ruled in favour of the residents of Bromwell Street, Woodstock after they challenged the City of Cape Town's provision of emergency and temporary housing.

Residents demanded accommodation near the inner city, where they currently live and work. They also wanted the court to declare parts of the City's housing programme as unconstitutional.

The residents' homes were bought by private developers – Woodstock Hub – in 2013, from the landlord as part of Woodstock's gentrification push.

In a ruling handed down on Monday, the court ruled that the City's emergency housing programme and its implementation, in relation to the Bromwell Street residents, was unconstitutional.

The court ruled that the City had to provide the residents with "temporary" emergency accommodation or "transitional" housing in Woodstock, Salt River or the inner-city precinct in a location as near as feasibly possible to where the applicants were currently residing – within 12 months of the date of the order.

The court also ordered the City to file a report within four months of the date of the order, in which details of the emergency accommodation or transitional housing to the residents were provided.

READ MORE | Woodstock residents challenge City of Cape Town's housing policy

Residents were represented by the housing law group, Ndifuna Ukwazi.

The residents had been resisting their eviction since 2014, because they could not afford any other housing options in Woodstock or Salt River. The City had offered alternative accommodation, but residents had refused.

Judge Mark Sher said in his ruling: "In my view, the differentiation in treatment which the City's emergency housing programme affords to homeless evictees in the inner city, and in Woodstock and Salt River in particular, is not only unreasonable, but also irrational because it is arbitrary in its implementation."

He agreed with the applicants' contention that the effect of the implementation of the programme in the inner-city precinct was to give undue preference to social housing at the expense of the City's constitutional obligations in relation to the provision of emergency housing.

ALSO READ | Gentrification is destroying lives - Woodstock residents fighting eviction

Sher said the crux of the matter was the provision by the City of emergency housing to people in the inner city and its surrounds, in particular Woodstock and Salt River, who were rendered homeless after an eviction.

The City's executive mayor, Dan Plato, said: "The City is concerned about the implications of this judgment for both private property owners and municipalities across the country. While we acknowledge the court's decision, we do not agree with the outcome of this matter and we are in the process of considering our options."

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