City hostels ‘overcrowded’

ct Gugulethu Hostel 9531 INLSA FACELIFT NEEDED: Nwabisa Genuka(cor.) and her family share a small hostel in the Linglihile Flats(cor.) in Gugulethu. The city has started a process to convert the hostels into family homes. Photo: Jeffrey Abrahams

Simone Alicea

IMAGINE that you make some money. Not a lot of money, not enough to save for a house. But some, enough that you don’t qualify for certain things. You’re stuck.

Nwabisa Genuka, still lives in the Linglihile Flats hostels in Gugulethu after she moved there at a young age with her mother 30 years ago. Her father was already there. Her younger brother was born in the hostels.

“Lots of families come and go,” Genuka said.

Genuka holds a steady job at a hotel, but doesn’t make enough to get her and her son out of the crowded hostel.

Last week, the City of Cape Town announced that it was beginning the process of getting people out of the hostels into better housing.

The flats in Linglihile have five rooms with a shared kitchen and a bathroom. The hostels were built during apartheid to house migrant workers and keep black people, especially families, out of the city. The rooms were meant to house one or two men each.

Now, a family of six might share a single room. Five families might share a kitchen and bathroom.

Across the highway, workers have just poured the first foundations for new residences in Langa. Hostel and squatter residents in wards 51 and 53 will have the opportunity to move to the larger rental apartments.

Aphiwe Luleko has lived in the same hostel for 10 years. She lives with her husband and three children in a small room with two other families. Three elevated beds line the walls of the room. Luleko said the couples sleep on the beds while the children, seven between the three families, sleep on the floor.

Luleko said she looked forward to moving, but she wasn’t convinced it would happen soon. “Each and every year they promise,” Luleko said. “I don’t believe we’ll be out by November.”

Five years ago, there was another Hostels-to-Homes programme.

“When the funding for the programme was discontinued by the national Department of Human Settlements, this planned transformation could not materialise,” said mayoral committee member for human settlements Tandeka Gqada.

Back at the Langa construction site, general foreman Sivu Blou said that construction would be completed 18 months from January.

The councillor said that the first phase of the project would be ready for residents by November, but construction would continue beyond then.

The Langa site will house 463 families in two-bedroomed units. In theory, the process will move like a conveyor belt: hostel occupants move to the new residences, the city demolishes those hostels, they build new projects, and people move into those buildings.

The process in Gugulethu may be similar, but information is scarce until the city completes its feasibility study of the 99 targeted hostels in sections 2 and 3, which would take about six months.

The city is preparing a tender process for the study.

Genuka said she hadn’t heard anything about work in Gugulethu. Some of Linglihile residents knew what the city was planning. Others said the plans weren’t for them.

Of all the complaints residents had about the hostels – spotty electricity, rubbish in the streets, general disrepair – the most common and vocal complaint was the crowdedness of living spaces.

“I want to have my space with my family,” Genuka said. “I want to have my own bathroom and a place that’s cleaned properly.”

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