Bromwell families takes fight for housing to highest court

Bromwell Street in Woodstock. Picture: Phando Jikelo

Bromwell Street in Woodstock. Picture: Phando Jikelo

Published Feb 28, 2024


Cape Town - Judgment has been reserved in the eviction challenge involving Bromwell Street residents in Woodstock and the City.

The residents, represented by land and housing activist organisation and law centre Ndifuna Ukwazi, have taken the matter to the Constitutional Court, which yesterday heard their application to appeal a decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), delivered on February 6 last year.

Abahlali baseMjondolo was admitted as amicus curiae, or friend of the court, represented by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI).

Ndifuna Ukwazi said the applicants were long-standing residents of Bromwell Street who had a right to live there.

“This decision (for eviction) permits the City of Cape Town to evict the Bromwell Street families and relocate them to informal settlements, such as Wolwerivier, which are far away from the city centre.”

The SCAs decision overturned a Western Cape High Court ruling, which declared the City’s emergency housing programme “arbitrary and unconstitutional”, ordering the City to provide the residents with temporary emergency accommodation or transitional housing in Woodstock, Salt River or the Inner City precinct, in a location that was as close as possible to their current homes within a year.

In a statement, Reclaim the City said the families were threatened with eviction after their homes were sold to the Woodstock Hub, which planned to redevelop the property for higher rents.

It added that when the City failed to provide emergency housing close to their original homes, as required by its constitutional duty, the families initiated legal action.

“The outcome of this case will have significant implications for housing justice and tenant rights in Cape Town, particularly in the context of rising gentrification and the need for affordable housing.”

Meanwhile, the City said: “In 2017, the high court granted an eviction order to a private owner of a Bromwell Street property. The occupants had demanded that the state provide temporary emergency housing in the specific areas of Salt River, Woodstock or the CBD, rejecting all offers of temporary emergency housing made by the City of Cape Town at the time.

“The implication of this demand is that the state (in this case, the City) would have to provide emergency housing for any number of private evictions in the specific area of the eviction, and at the public’s cost. This is neither reasonable nor feasible.”