Housing activists are confused about how public land in Walmer Estate, earmarked for affordable housing, was sold to a private developer. Photographer: David Ritchie/African News Agency
Cape Town - Housing activists are confused about how public land in Walmer Estate, earmarked for affordable housing, was sold to a private developer to build luxury apartments.

The land, believed to be owned by the provincial department of human settlements, was disposed of in 2009.

However, the department launched an eviction order against residents illegally living on the property in 2012.

Reclaim the City’s Woodstock chapter leader Deena Bosch said: “We were told they cannot develop this property into affordable housing initially when we were fighting for housing in the area.

“Someone is lying to us because why would the provincial department launch an eviction order in 2012 if they were no longer the owners and when was this land sold?”

Bosch claimed the land was sold “quietly without any intent to provide any social housing”.

“How and when did the province dispose of this land? They are putting it into the hands of private developers and failing to provide inner-city affordable housing. Housing for the super-rich at R7 million on what was public land is criminal.”

In 2012, the department approached the court to evict a group of squatters on land it owns in Woodstock.

The department said in papers before the Western Cape High Court that the structure of the building on the property was not safe, and that it has been battling with the occupants since 2009. The building was constructed in 1930 and was deemed unfit for occupation in 2009 when the City issued a notice to the Human Settlements Department.

However, the department could not demolish the building as there were as many as 10 families residing on the land.

Heritage Western Cape was cited as a respondent because the Heritage Act provided that a structure might not be demolished without a permit if it was older than 60 years. The department had applied for such a permit.

Human Settlements MEC spokesperson Marcellino Martin said: “Our erf is 12698 and in February 2009 a submission was approved to sell the property to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.”

Martin said the department had made strides in moving residents closer to the city: “Project planning is currently under way at the proposed Salt River Market site, Artscape/Founders garden initiative, Helen Bowden/Somerset Hospital precinct and Woodstock Hospital redevelopment initiative. The Conradie Better Living Model Exemplar Project represents a well located, affordable, integrated, mixed income and mixed-use development.”


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Cape Argus