Residents from all over Cape Town gathered at a rally in Sea Point on Sunday January 29 in support of affordable housing in the city.
The rally was organised by supporters of Reclaim The City, a campaign that has focused on making affordable housing in well-located areas, available.
The rally was held to mark the closing of the public participation period for the feasibility test on the Tafelberg site in Sea Point which was released by the Western Cape Department of Public Works last year.
The test showed that it would be possible to have a mixed use development with 270 flats at the Tafelberg School site in Sea Point. Around 200 people attended the event on Sunday, which also had live music and DJs as well as speakers.
Provincialgovernmenthas since, however, extended the comment period, which was due to close on Tuesday January 31, for another two weeks.
One of the submissions in support of social housing at the Tafelberg site came from the Green Point Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association. In their submission they say that no social housing has been provided in the City Bowl or the Atlantic Seaboard since 1994.
It reads, in part: “In our opinion, the study uses realistic development costs and delivery timelines and makes conservative revenue predictions. It is therefore possible, without draining the public purse, to develop a multi-use social housing solution of about 270 units by using cross-subsidisation from sale or rent of commercial, retail or even residential space. We fully support this.
“In addition it may also still be possible to accommodate a school in the community space of old heritage buildings.
“If the school required more space for sport fields, those on nearby Green Point Common could be considered.
“We promote use of community facilities like shared fields and encourage such a departure from the established model of private duplication of everything.”
The submission went on to say: “The City has repeatedly stated that it has no responsibility or mandate to interfere in these private sector operations. We disagree but even so, if local government abrogates its responsibility to mitigate a social housing crisis that the private sector is partly causing then it has a special duty to remedy the situation when an opportunity such as this arises around public land.”
Ndifuna Ukwazi member and activist Zackie Achmat said most of the people at the rally were young people of all races and showed that they supported affordable housing.
“We are here to say that this land does not belong to property developers, neither Tafelberg in Sea Point nor Salt River or Woodstock. That land belongs to the people. What today shows is that people support in a non-racial way, the integration of our city.
“If government ignores that, they would be making a fatal mistake and we will take steps to ensure that property developers do not win this battle. It’s about claiming our city back and making sure it is not business as usual.”
Mr Achmat also spoke to the Atlantic Sun about the gentrification in areas such as Woodstock. He said that the property values in Cape Town were affecting all working class citizens. “A house was sold in Gympie Street in Woodstock for R2.9 million.
“When I was growing up, that was the street we were told to avoid. Some of the poorest people in our city used to live there.
“It is pushing working class people right out of the city. Gentrification is the wrong word for it, it is forced displacement by property pricing and we have to address that.”
He said the City had created temporary relocation areas which, he believed, was a euphemism for dumping grounds.
“For us that is totally unacceptable and we are not going to let that happen,” Mr Achmat said.
In an Ndifuna Ukwazi statement released over the weekend, the activist organisation and law centre said court documents related to the Bromwell Street case revealed a list of the City of Cape Town’s existing and proposed relocation areas, with the former including Mfuleni, Happy Valley, Blikkiesdorp, Wolwerivier, Sir Lowry’s Pass, Bardale, OR Tambo (Khayelitsha), Hangberg and Masonwabie (Gugulethu); and the latter, Bloekombos Ext 3, Strandfontein East, Pelican Park South, Atlantis South, Macassar, Mfuleni Ext 2, Vlakteplaas, Sweet Home, Aloe Ridge, and Nooiensfontein.
The organisation’s statement also made reference to Mayor Patricia de Lille’s recent announcement of a restructure of her administration, in part, to “reverse the legacy of apartheid spatial planning”. “Apartheid spatial planning was designed to separate people according to race, and to reserve the inner city and best suburbs for white residents only,” the statement read.
“It depended upon the establishment of isolated, peripheral townships and upon the removal of black and coloured people there. It created the sprawling and segregated city design which continues to largely exclude working class black and coloured people from the option of living in or near the inner city.
“To date, the City’s plans to address this legacy focus on cutting transport costs and commuting times into the city for working class black and coloured people, instead of providing affordable accommodation in the inner city. This approach reiterates the apartheid principle that working class black and coloured people should be migratory workers, and not residents, in and around the inner city,” the statement read.
Elizabeth Gqoboka, spokesperson for Reclaim The City and a former domestic worker, said poor residents were tired of being exploited.
“We need to build this country together. This is the only way to take Sea Point forward. We are here to stay.”
One of the speakers at Sunday’s rally was Charnell Commando, a resident of Bromwell Street, Woodstock, where residents have been facing a court battle against eviction. “I want you to support us and everybody that is being evicted from their homes and moved far away from the city. We are all human beings, it doesn’t matter if you stay in Salt River or in Sea Point. We are equal and we should be treated as equals.”
She said the fight for the Tafelberg site was the start of the campaign for affordable housing in Cape Town. “We are working class people and we deserve decent living places. We are not going to stop fighting for all the people being evicted. The more people stand together the better chance we have.”
Reclaim The City said on Sunday that they had received more than 700 submissions in support of affordable housing at the Tafelberg site, from members of the community and raised R8 000 for their tenant advice office.
Siphesihle Dube, spokesperson for Transport and Public Works MEC, Donald Grant, confirmed that a two-week extension for comments had been granted due to a request from an interested party.
“Once the comment period has closed, the comments will then be presented to cabinet for consideration in making their final decision.”
Lance Katz, vice chairman of the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School confirmed that they had requested a two-week extension. “The (Financial) model is quite complex with a number of variables, parameters, assumptions and outputs that require a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to consider and comment on.
“The decision to be taken by province based on the model and the comments which they receive on that model are of great importance to us and all the other stakeholders involved in this matter.
“We therefore felt that it was in everybody’s best interests that (within reason) some additional time be granted to all parties to ensure that the comments which province receive are as well informed and robust as possible.”