Cape Town -
When Johanna Januarie opened the door to her new home at Mountain View in Ocean View on Tuesday, she said it felt as if she had unlocked the door to her future.
Although her husband, David, died last year, while the couple were waiting for the house, she could feel his presence when the keys were handed over, she said.
At 92, he would have been the oldest beneficiary of the City of Cape Town’s R46 million housing project.
The site off Slangkop Road was earmarked for housing in the late 1980s, but concerns about the high cost of excavating the mountain rock almost derailed the project.
Premier Helen Zille, who attended the key handover ceremony on Tuesday with mayor Patricia de Lille and the MEC for Human Settlements, Bonginkosi Madikizela, acknowledged that the beneficiaries had been waiting several years for their houses.
Zille said government red tape had been largely to blame, as there was a “rule for everything”. But she said that “sometimes you have to put delivery ahead of the rules”.
The project, now part of the official World Design Capital programme for its innovative use of local material, was an example of how the government could “think outside of the box”.
Zille also noted that there had been “a lot of anger” when the project started several years ago. But despite the long wait and the many obstacles, the community had been patient without resorting to violence.
Councillor Felicity Purchase, who has worked on the project since it was first mooted, said an intervention from the Department of Social Development had saved it from being shelved.
The contractor almost walked off the site when it became apparent that many of the workers, who were to own the houses, had drug and alcohol addictions. The city hosted workshops to help them deal with their problems, and the project continued.
De Lille said it showed how design-led thinking could resolve complex challenges and improve quality of life.
She said 30 trainees were skilled in stone masonry and almost 500 workers were employed by the city’s Expanded Public Works Programme.
By 2015, there would be 543 houses.
“Not only will these houses give people dignity, they will be reminders of everything that is possible when communities work with the city to transform the way that they live.”
But this sentiment was not shared by all the beneficiaries.
“We voted for housing, not for these houses. A big dog would not be able to sleep in that room. There is not even place for a bed to fit,” said Magrieta Jantjies, who has lived in the area for 27 years.
She said the community had not elected the steering community that claimed to represent their interests.
Other disgruntled beneficiaries, many of whom are involved in the construction of the houses, complained that the structures were too small to accommodate families.
“We are not dogs,” they said. One woman said she would have to leave most of her possessions, and half of her family, in the bungalow at the informal settlement where she was living. There were also concerns about safety as the houses were built close together with no protective walls.