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WC activists lament lack of progress with housing backlog

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By Tauhierah Salie

Western Cape housing and land Activists have bemoaned the lack of consultation with those most affected by the housing backlog in the province. Hundreds of members from various organisations demonstrated outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Friday, during a Housing Indaba hosted by the City of Cape Town.
IN a statement released by the Westerrn Cape government on Sunday, several stakeholders from all three spheres of government were present including the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA), Social Housing Institutions (SHI’s), the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance, the Western Cape Property Development Forum, the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA), the International Housing Solution and the International Housing Solution.
Demonstrators criticized the prioritizing of the private sector when it comes to affordable housing.
Among the organizations present include Ndifuna Ukwazi. The group said in a statement that despite both Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and Western Cape Premier Alan Winde being present at the Indaba, the City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi and National Minister for Human Settlements Mmamoloko Kubayi were sent to address the protesting crowds.
According to the group, the most pertinent call from communities is improved public-private partnerships, where accountability and decision making are ensured:
“As Ndifuna Ukwazi we were granted access to the Affordable Housing Indaba, but as a resourced support organisation we cannot speak for those most directly affected by the state’s failure to address Cape Town’s affordable housing crisis. Communities and social movements like Reclaim the City have vocally called for the release of well-located public land and development of dignified, affordable housing for years, yet they were not drawn into the event,” read the statement.

“The fundamental call from communities was for greater inclusion in the decision-making processes around the release of land and development of affordable housing. Though a wide range of roleplayers were present (including private property developers, social housing institutions (SHIs) and micro-developers), those who have the greatest possible stake in seeing affordable housing developed were not included.”

Apart from insufficient engagement, activists cited restrictive by-laws including the Unlawful Occupation By-Law and Streets, Public Places and Noise Nuisances By-Law to harass. These have been at the heart of contention and faced legal action.

The Western Cape is home to an intense housing backlog of an estimated half a million beneficiaries. On the heels of a tough economic climate as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions, there has been an increase in informal settlements.
In a statement embargoed for release the morning of the Indaba, Reclaim the City said it represents the need of communities including: Covid-19, Island, Wetlands, Delft, Backstage, Philippi, Kraaifontein, New Rest, Sibanye, Nqentsu, Makhaza Phakathi, Sanitaza, eButsheni, Vukiland, Azania, BM Section, RR, Siyakhana, Noxolo Xawuka, eThembeni, Ntuthu from Khayelitsha and Reclaim the City from Woodstock and Sea Point.

“We are a collective of people from across the City of Cape Town who have occupied land or buildings as a result of the state’s failure to provide dignified affordable housing to residents. As individuals we made the decision to occupy because we urgently needed shelter and access to urban land close to work opportunities, social amenities, healthcare and more. We are not criminals; we are families who need homes. The need for affordable housing has been even more urgent since Covid-19 and we refuse to be treated as criminals rather than collaborators in the response to this crisis.”

“We are here today because we all have issues with the City of Cape Town’s provision of affordable housing and feel the effects of spatial apartheid. While our communities are affected in different ways, we stand together in solidarity today to demand dignified housing solutions for all, against the race and class divisions created in the city.”

Under the banners of “dignified affordable housing for all” and “Spatial justice now”, Reclaim the City warned government and the City prior to the Indaba, that land occupation will increase if their demands are not met:

Photo: Supplied
Meanwhile, announcing the launch of a new program at the Indaba, Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, announced a R17 million allocation to “cut out red tape and fast-track land release in the City’s new draft budget”. The Human Settlements department also lowered the social housing household income qualification criteria recently.
“We expect several well-located properties to be on the City Council agenda in May – encouraging progress on fast-tracking land release. Our commitment is to do more to release state-owned land for the development of well-located affordable housing, close to public transport and economic opportunities. This includes releasing land for social housing projects in the inner-city and well-located nodes elsewhere,’ said the Mayor.
Read the full statement here.
According to Winde, the plan will aid the provincial governments commitment to tackling the housing inefficiencies:
“By addressing apartheid spatial planning in this way, we are further promoting economic growth and job creation through construction and by creating social housing opportunities close to economic hubs where beneficiaries can access work, transport, and schooling opportunities,” said Winde.
According to Simmers, tackling the “approximately 568 000” backlog requires an “innovative and forward-thinking” approach. He further pointed to two additions to the social housing and ‘Help me buy a Home (previously known as FLISP)’. The later seeks to assist nearly 1 4800 people, “which is 578 more potential beneficiaries than last year’s target of 900.”


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