Activists push City for housing action

Woodstock hospital, which is occupied by Reclaim the City supporters, has been identified as a site available for the development of affordable housing.

Social-housing activists have accused the City of fumbling its plans for affordable housing.

Ndifuna Ukwazi said implementation of the “game changing plans” for affordable housing, announced by transport and urban development Mayco member Brett Herron last year, had been “slow and incompetent”.

Last Wednesday, Mr Herron told a meeting at the Woodstock Town Hall that the City had identified council-owned sites in Woodstock and Salt River to be used for affordable state-subsidised housing – similar to rent-controlled homes found in London and New York.

“The provision of social housing in well-located areas will help to mitigate some of the impacts of rising prices and gentrification, and to make progress in the redress process as we build a more inclusive city,” said Mr Herron.

Those at the meeting included Woodstock and Salt River residents, activist group Reclaim the City, which Ndifuna Ukwazi is part of, and the ward councillor, Dave Bryant.

Many in the inner-city neighbourhoods are low-income tenants who have lived in the area all their lives but now face being forced out by gentrification, which is driving up property prices.

Mr Herron said the City had identified 11 vacant or derelict sites for possible development:

Fruit and Veg off Roeland Street, New Market Street, Pickwick Road, Woodstock Hospital Park and Woodstock Hospital site are available for development of affordable housing.

The Pine Road, Dillon Lane and Salt River Market sites have been allocated already to social-housing institutions.

James Street and a second site in Pickwick Road are to be developed for transitional housing.

Upper Canterbury Street has been identified for future development.

But in a statement after the Wednesday meeting, Ndifuna Ukwazi researcher Nick Budlender said the City seemed to be

“A year later, the City did not have a team to implement the projects, nor had it opened the bids.

“City officials did not do their job to ensure that the possible transfer of the land complies with regulations.

“Last week the City’s Foreshore affordable housing project fell through and the week before the Province’s Somerset Precinct affordable housing project fell through.

“National government is silent. It is clear that nobody in any sphere of government is able to address spatial apartheid and the housing crisis with the urgency and vision that is required.”

Mr Herron said the housing would be government-subsidised rental flats to be developed and managed by private, non-profit, nationally accredited social housing companies.

There were 350000 names on the City’s housing database, he said. Anyone wanting to benefit from social housing, would need to be on the database and be able to pay rent to the social housing company, have a household income between R1500 and R15000 and comply with the social housing company’s rules and criteria for eligibility.

Reaction from residents at the meeting was mixed.

Belinda Diedericks, 51, of Woodstock, said: “We must wait, there is no point in us trying to rush him, and if we are not going to be patient, then we will be going to Wolwerivier.”

Faghmeeda Ling, a member of Reclaim the City and an evictee from Albert Road, Woodstock, was worried about how long it would take to get the social housing plans off the ground.

“We have this space available so why can’t we start building, why then give us another time frame of three years and people are in need of housing, so what is stalling them, first it was the budget, then identifying sites, now we have sites.”

Mr Herron said the Pine Road social housing site, estimated to yield 230 social housing units, was likely to be the first large project to break ground as it was already zoned for housing and allocated to a social housing institution.

The site at Pickwick Road, which is for transitional housing, was under construction, and, if all went well, could be finished by the end of the year.