From the news desk

Wolwerivier only meant to be temporary shelter for CT residents – Herron

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Councillor Brett Herron says he is “uncomfortable” that Wolwerivier, situated about 30km from central Cape Town, is the City’s only temporary relocation area for people in need of emergency housing.

However, it was only meant to provide temporary shelter and many people who had been evicted from their homes could apply for social housing, he said.

“I am uncomfortable that it [Wolwerivier] is the only option, but it is the only option,” Herron told the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

“It is isolated and is problematic, from the perspective that it is the only site we offer.”

He said it was impossible to have a temporary relocation area in every suburb.

However, they were looking at eventually spreading these temporary areas out to places such as Parow, Bellville, Claremont and Wynberg, he said.

This was Herron’s explanation after being ordered to tell the court where the City plans to house a group of Woodstock residents facing eviction.

The residents of a converted apartment block in Albert Road received eviction notices in March 2017, after a dispute with the landlord.

They rejected the City’s offer to be housed at Wolwerivier over concerns about its location and facilities, as well as fears that they would end up there forever.

‘Huge displacement of poor people in Woodstock’

Their lawyer Mark Owen said transport nodes, schools and health facilities were quite a distance from Wolwerivier.

He said it was socio-economic discrimination to send residents there.

Owen said a large portion of the residents had been born and raised in Woodstock.

He accused the City of not taking proactive measures to stop “the huge displacement of poor people in Woodstock”.

The Woodstock residents were hoping to be placed in accommodation within central Cape Town.

The other offered alternative had initially been Blikkiesdorp in Delft, but Herron said the City was closing that down after deciding to stop using the area as an emergency housing site.

READ: Evicted residents distressed at prospect of living in Wolwerivier

Herron explained that he was testifying as a councillor, and not the mayoral committee member for urban development, because Patricia de Lille had been removed as mayor on Tuesday, and her committee dissolved.

The fully packed court room burst into laughter.

Herron told Magistrate Paul Jethro that, after looking at the list of residents and their income, most of them qualified for social housing.

‘First-come-first-served basis’

The threshold for this housing was a family income of between R1 500 and R15 000 a month, he said.

“So, I think there are other opportunities for the respondents to consider, given their income. They can be accommodated… in Milnerton, Bothasig, Belhar and Steenberg.”

Social housing companies had indicated to him that they had about four vacancies a month, on a “first-come-first-served basis”.

“In the Bromwell case, some of those residents were accommodated within a month in social housing developments.”

But Herron could not say how long it would take for the Woodstock residents to be rehoused if they did apply for this housing, as the City’s social housing unit was not responsible for placements.

Responding to accusations of not doing enough about locals being forced out of central areas, he said the City was going to mitigate gentrification in Woodstock and Salt River with around 4 000 social housing units planned for roll-out in the future.

The City would need would need to develop an allocation policy for these units that gave locals a fair chance, he said.

Should the residents need a temporary space at Wolwerivier, it would take a conservative estimate of eight months for the City to add 34 units to the area.

This was according to Waleed Adams, who heads engineering services in human settlements in Cape Town.

‘Landlord is in a precarious and difficult situation’

It currently has 466 structures and is allowed a maximum of 500.

Adams testified that this estimate was based on the supply chain management provisions that the City had to follow.

Ahmed Ebrahim, lawyer for the Woodstock landlord, said there was no evidence on record to show that residents had tried to find alternative accommodation, despite having over a year to do so.

He told the court that the landlord was not receiving any rent.

“Unfortunately, the landlord is in a precarious and difficult situation, but possibly has to endure for a bit longer,” Jethro said.

He gave the lawyers two weeks to make further written submissions.

Jethro reserved judgment and said he would let the parties know when he planned to hand it down.

[Source: News24]
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