Premier on inner-city housing

Reclaim the City members protesting for affordable housing in Sea Point in November 2019.

The plan to develop affordable housing within the Somerset Precinct near the V&A Waterfront remains one of the province’s top commitments.

This was stated by the Western Cape premier, Alan Winde, during his State of the Province Address (SOPA) last week Wednesday, February 17.

Mr Winde told the members of the provincial parliament that it was his commitment to ensure that housing opportunities are close to areas of economic activity.

He said that this was possible if the illegal occupation of the previous Helen Bowden Nursing Home ends.

He said the residents occupying the building and the housing activist groups supporting them should get out of the way, stop jumping the queue, and work with them to ensure that the Somerset Precinct is developed as soon as possible.

“Speaker, I remain flabbergasted as to how this government can be attacked for not delivering housing close to the centre of Cape Town by the very same organisations that have either directly encouraged, or silently supported, the occupation of the previous Helen Bowden Nursing Home.

“And it makes me wonder if they are in fact really serious about our poorest residents,” he said.

“Because if they were: they should get out of the way, stop jumping the queue, and work with us to ensure that the Somerset Precinct is developed as soon as possible.”

Mr Winde said they have acquired 130 hectares of land already, despite serious financial constraints, that in the end will have the potential to create over 13 000 housing opportunities in the province.

He added that the Department of Transport and Public Works has also granted Power of Attorney to the Department of Human Settlements, making available a number of properties close to or in the CBD of Cape Town. “All these potential sites have now been scoped in detail, and the potential for each project, including financing, is now being considered,” he said.

Last week, the City’s Mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, stated that Ndifuna Ukwazi’s Reclaim the City unlawful occupation campaign has become a major obstacle to social housing at two well-located sites in Cape Town.

He said following an announcement of social housing plans for the Helen Bowden property, Ndifuna Ukwazi staged an organised invasion in March 2017, with subsequent calls to “sustain and build” the occupation.

“This has stalled social housing development at both the City-owned Woodstock Hospital site and the Helen Bowden property near the V&A Waterfront, owned by the Western Cape Government,” he said.

Reclaim the City argued that the City’s insistence on shifting blame and targeting human rights defenders and housing activists without critically evaluating its role in a housing crisis prevents all affected parties, including the City, from arriving at equitable, feasible and just solutions.

“The possibility of a just outcome in an unequal society requires imagination, thoughtfulness, and centring of human dignity.

“It is our hope that the City will make the shift from claiming ’impossibility’, and instead support calls for meaningful engagement on demonstrated, just alternatives in response to the challenges posed by the housing crisis,” they said.