Waterfront homes plan hailed as victory for poor
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The tribunal on Tuesday approved a provincial government application to consolidate and rezone the Somerset Precinct in the Waterfront.
This will allow hundreds social housing apartments to be built on almost 11 hectares (the size of about 11 soccer fields) on some of the most valuable public land in the city. The tribunal asked the province to maximise the number of social housing apartments when it submitted its plans.
“It was an important milestone and victory for poor and working-class people in the struggle for decent affordable housing,” the co-ordinating committee of Reclaim the City, a social movement campaigning for affordable housing in the inner city, said.
They said the tribunal’s decision was the result of the work of a movement of poor and working-class people who had stood together and demanded that the government use its best land for people who needed it most. The people comprised “black and coloured people who were forcefully removed, who’ve worked for years in the inner city and commute long hours every day”.
The group stated: “Today we have shown that when we organise, we can hold government accountable to do the right thing. But we have a long road ahead to reclaim this city.”
Another activist organisation, Ndifuna Ukwazi, said: “They (province) proposed to consolidate the land into three different areas and develop them in phases with shops, offices, homes and public squares.
“They have committed to build homes on 60% of the floor area and to reserve 20% (of this 60%) for social rental housing. This means that a minimum of 12% of the total floor area of the development will be social housing. The commitments look good, but numbers could be better.”
Premier Helen Zille welcomed the approval, saying it enabled the Somerset Precinct to take its place among the province’s flagship affordable housing projects, including the Conradie Hospital site in an inner-city feeder suburb.
The Belhar CBD development was proceeding into its second phase.
“We remain concerned about the illegal occupation of Helen Bowden Nurses Home. This remains a real threat to our ability to proceed with affordable housing,” said Zille.
“The plan is to develop over 300 affordable housing units on the Helen Bowden Nurses Home portion of the precinct. This is just the start.
“We are committed to maximising affordable housing on the remainder of the precinct, which has been our position from day one. This rezoning approval enables us to do that.”
Reclaim the City said the province should stop selling its land and rather develop a comprehensive plan to build enough affordable housing on all empty and underutilised public land in the inner city and surrounds.@MarvinCharles17