A public notice for the rezoning of a recreational park into a residential area in Newlands West has sparked an outcry. Picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)
A public notice for the rezoning of a recreational park into a residential area in Newlands West has sparked an outcry. Picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)

Tension brews in Newlands West over housing project

By Siboniso Mngadi Time of article published Nov 29, 2020

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Durban - Tension is brewing in Newlands West between hopeful first-time homeowners and established residents in the area.

A public notice for the rezoning of a recreational park into a residential area sparked the outcry.

While some residents were opposed to the development, those who stand to benefit from it, welcomed the project.

It was alleged that a private developer entered into an agreement with the eThekwini municipality and the Department of Human Settlements, to develop 240 units of flats under the Financial Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (Flisp).

The programme was developed by the department to assist first-time homebuyers who were considered to be too “rich” to qualify for a Reconstruction and Development Programme houses but poor to afford a home loan.

The private developer would then utilise the public park to develop the flats, which would be sold to qualifying first-time homebuyers.

Commotion ensued during a community meeting this week as residents sought clarity on the project.

Some residents blamed the municipality for the plans saying the park was the only recreational spot in the areas used for multiple functions.

They complained that the project would devalue their properties, some estimated over R1 million.

But others insisted that the development must be allowed for the benefit of those who could not afford houses, which triggered chaos.

In a notice, the city informed residents that an application was made for the rezoning of the park from special residential to general residential.

The notice invited community members to lodge objections for the rezoning through email or post before January 6, 2021.

Vijen Govender, a community leader, said they were stunned by the notice adding there were no discussions.

“The park is maintained by us, with the assistance of the municipality.

“It is the only public space we have in this area, we also use it for religious functions. We have invested in properties and we consider this area as upmarket with some properties and duplexes worth over R1m.

“We will utilise every avenue available to object this project,” he said.

Joyce Johnson, ANC ward councillor denied any knowledge of the project but was in full support of it.

She said the meeting was convened so the developer could present to the public what the project would look like.

“We have a serious shortage of houses in this area and some people cannot afford home loans. This is a great opportunity for middle-class people, I am confident it will add value to the existing properties.

“I have appealed to residents to listen to the developer about his plans, unfortunately, the meeting did not go well.

“We have many people who stand to benefit and the developer has made it clear that the park would not be entirely demolished, it will also be upgraded.

“It is sad that this issue is now being politicised,” she said.

Asked why she was not aware of the project as the ward councillor, Johnson said she was not privy of issues discussed in committee meetings held by council.

Msawakhe Mayisela, city spokesperson, said it was untrue that the city implemented the project without consulting residents.

“We subscribe to a downward to upward approach to development.

“The city is urging residents to actively participate in the decision-making in relation to this above mentioned project.

“We would like to hear their views as these are important to the city.

“In order to ensure that all residents are given ample opportunity to participate, the city has not only posted notices in the community, but it has also advertised in mainstream media,” he said.

Mayisela confirmed the city would develop houses for people earning between R3 500 to R22 000 per month through the Flip programme.

Asked about the developer he said: “We cannot give any further information regarding the actual construction of the units at this stage. All information will be made available once other processes are finalised.”

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Sunday Tribune

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