VACANT: The Former Helen Bowden Nurses Home in Green Point has been boarded up for more than a year.Picture: Cindy Waxa
Cape Town - The need for low-cost housing in the inner city is being amplified by Reclaim the City’s request for the City to consider having affordable accommodation in Green Point, where a government-owned block of flats has been boarded up and standing empty for more than a year.

The flats adjacent to Somerset Hospital had previously been a residence for nurses and was called the Helen Bowden Nursing Home.

At times, vagrants occupied part of the building, which belongs to the provincial government.

Approached for comment about the possibility of the building being used to accommodate families facing eviction from their homes in Albert Road, Woodstock, executive mayor Patricia de Lille’s spokesperson Zara Nicholson said: “This is a private matter and people must go on to a housing waiting list.”

City spokesperson Priya Reddy said the Woodstock families’ Legal Aid lawyer has asked for a housing report. The city was liaising with Legal Aid regarding the request, she said.

Premier Helen Zille’s spokesperson Michael Mpofu said the Woodstock Hospital and the Helen Bowden building sites were earmarked to include affordable housing. “The cabinet had issued an instruction for affordable housing to be included as a condition in the release of the Helen Bowden Nurses Home property, situated near the V&A Waterfront.”

This is part of the provincial government’s plan to redevelop the precinct, according to Mpofu.

The Helen Bowden Nurses Home site is the first of four parcels of land in the Somerset precinct to be released for development. The empty home on this site, next to Fort Wynyard and the Green Point common, is zoned as public open space. It will be demolished to make way for a 14-storey development, which will include retail, office and residential space.

The Woodstock Hospital site was a 15000m2 property with potential for the cross-subsidisation of affordable housing, within a mixed-income, mixed-use context, Mpofu said.

“Cabinet has resolved that affordable housing on this site, as a whole or in part, is critical given its locality and size.”

Ndifuna Ukwazi researcher Julian Sendin said: “Promises regarding the Somerset precinct in Green Point have been coming on for a while.

“It is all vague and who is it really affordable for.”

Ndifuna Ukwazi is an organisation supporting Reclaim the City.

“Provincial government missed an opportunity to build affordable housing in the city with the Tafelberg school.

“Many people work in the city, but stay on the outskirts. This is an insult to working-class people.

“We have been campaigning for affordable housing near the CBD for low-income families for a long time.

“They have shown a deep contempt for the principle of using public land to reverse apartheid spatial planning.”

South African Institute for Black Property Practitioners chief executive Vuyiswa Mutshekwane said Cape Town still has “a hangover of apartheid” where there are affluent areas and the townships.

She said instead of building integrated housing, people were being uprooted.

“But local government can change this. It can be profitable to build affordable housing because the national government makes subsidies available.

“But it seems that we are going backwards because we are only building low-cost housing in townships.

“This is a crisis because we are not thinking of spatial transformation. We need mixed income housing developments.

“This is not how you build an economy.

“Nowhere in the world has an economy been built like it has been in Cape Town.

“And this is how you lock people out of the economy.”

Cape Argus