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Activists demand finer details on City of Cape Town land release

Activists have occupied Woodstock Hospital, which they have since named Cissie Gool House, since 2017 in an effort to draw attention to the need for affordable housing.

Activists have occupied Woodstock Hospital, which they have since named Cissie Gool House, since 2017 in an effort to draw attention to the need for affordable housing.

Published Aug 6, 2022

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Cape Town - Who is set to benefit from the recent release of the Salt River market precinct for affordable housing?

This was the question from the social justice group Reclaim the City, whose members said they would not get excited about the City's release of land meant for social housing in the City of Cape Town.

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Reclaim the City said it would wait for the City to lay out its plans for the two parcels of land and explain the qualifying criteria.

The group has also warned the developments in the council would see a class struggle play out.

But Mayco member for human settlements Malusi Booi squashed the concerns, saying workers who earn between R1 850 and R22 000 would fit the criteria.

The Council last Thursday approved the release of the Salt River market precinct for the commencement of construction of affordable housing, which would yield 700 mixed-development units, including 216 social housing units.

Reclaim the City media officer Karen Hendricks, who is among people occupying Woodstock Hospital, which occupants have since renamed Cissie Gool House, said the burning question was who the soon-to-be-built apartments were for.

"If only one-third of most of these sites that the City has earmarked will be going to low-cost housing or affordable housing, our questions remain, who is this housing for, and who will benefit?

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"Will this benefit the poorest of the poor and those who are living in occupation due to the housing crisis? Right now, it is unclear who is going to benefit,“ Hendricks said.

She said occupiers had been accused of attempting to jump the queue and by-passing hundreds of people on the housing waiting list.

Hendricks said she was concerned that a certain class among the working class would benefit while the poorer people remain homeless and landless.

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"Would it be the upper end or the poorest of the poor? Who is it for? Our stance is that we will continue to push for affordable housing and that we want to see development, we are for development, but we want development that is truly affordable and not exclusionary," Hendricks said.

She said most people occupying the building had been evicted when they could no longer afford the rent in the family homes they grew up in.

Hendricks explained that rent in Woodstock and its surrounds soared when the properties were sold to private developers.

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This week, Hendricks accused the City of Cape Town of also not taking the matter to the public for comment through public participation.

Booi, however, said Hendricks' claims were disingenuous.

Booi said a call for public comment for both the Pickwick site and Salt River was made, and people were asked to submit their comments or objections between June 3 and July 4.

He said no comments or objections were received.

Asked to explain who would benefit from the release of land, Booi said: "Social housing in its nature starts from about R1800 and goes up to R22 000 people. This includes domestic workers, police officers, any public servant who works in the inner City within that (salary) bracket will benefit from that project. Any person who cleans our streets will benefit. Petrol attendants, security guards, will also benefit," Booi said.

He revealed the City would expedite the development with a site to be handed over to a developer at the end of September.

"It seems the expectation is that we release the land today and tomorrow there is a contractor on site, but that is not how it goes. There are processes that have to be followed," Booi said.

NPO Ndifuna Ukwazi warned the City's housing crisis would not be resolved by the City alone.

Researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi Robyn Park-Ross said the housing crisis needed to be addressed urgently.

"The housing crisis and legacy of spatial apartheid are multi-faceted and therefore need to be addressed urgently and creatively with all the tools we have at our disposal.

“One of these crucial tools is for the state to prioritise well-located public land, like these parcels, for affordable housing," Park-Ross said.

She called for the City to urgently craft an inclusionary housing policy, saying this would secure a contribution to affordable housing and spatial transformation from the private sector.

"We need to improve the services and quality of life for those living in informal settlements. At the same time, we need to respect and support people who have created collective solutions to the lack of affordable housing in our city, such as occupations," Park-Ross said.

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