City of Cape Town’s ’promise of social housing used to evict hundreds of poor, working class families’
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Cape Town – “Nothing about us without us” is the call from families living in the Old Woodstock Hospital following the City’s court-ordered survey issued to residents earlier this month.
The survey is needed to determine the number of illegal occupants, their identities, monthly income, eligibility for state-subsidised housing, and willingness to vacate the property so that social housing plans are not further delayed, the City said.
Residents, supported by the Reclaim the City (RTC) movement, who have been living at the hospital site since 2017, said the City’s goal was to evict them from the site.
“For almost four years, Cissie Gool House has offered a refuge and safe house to poor and working-class families, who would otherwise have faced homelessness and displacement as a result of rampant gentrification and evictions, in the Woodstock and Salt River areas,” RTC said in a statement.
“The court papers make it clear that the City is finally prioritising the development of social housing on the Cissie Gool House site – after more than four years of dragging its feet. We celebrate this as a victory for spatial justice.
’’But instead of doing this in a way that would incorporate and build on our community-driven developments, the City plans on using the promise of social housing as a way to evict hundreds of poor and working-class families from Cissie Gool House – and it is doing so in the midst of a deadly global pandemic, without making offers of alternative housing to those who need it.”
RTC said the City had abandoned dialogue in 2019 and were again making moves without engaging residents.
“Rather than working with us, the City wants to blame us for its decades-long failure to deliver social housing in the CBD,” said RTC.
Mayco member for human settlements Malusi Booi said only lawful and constitutional means can be used to allocate the estimated 700 social housing units the City intends to build at Woodstock Hospital, and development cannot begin until illegal occupants vacate the site.
“It is hoped that people will move from the property voluntarily. If need be, the City will pursue eviction proceedings subject to lockdown regulations, and all due process will be followed,” he said.
“The matter is urgent as the City is able to proceed with social housing building plan submissions within a short time frame due to favourable zoning and rights on the property subject to any heritage requirements,” he added.
Booi said the “toxic legacy” of the Reclaim the City unlawful occupation campaign has become a major obstacle to social housing at two well-located sites in central Cape Town.