Council to decide on Salt River site

Residents attended a public meeting at the Salt River Market site.

Reclaim The City held a public meeting at the Salt River Market site ahead of the highly anticipated full-council meeting next month to decide whether the social-housing project planned for the site gets the green light.

The project had received extensive coverage in recent weeks, with former Mayco members Suzette Little and Brett Herron accusing DA councillors of blocking the affordable housing project at a council meeting on Thursday October 25 (“Social housing delayed, again,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, November 1).

The City, however, claimed technical issues had delayed approval for the project, which will now be discussed at the council meeting on Thursday December 13.

The project would see a mixed-use development on 1.7ha of City-owned land in Salt River. It would include a 10-storey block of flats, which would consist of social housing, affordable housing and high-end units, as well as a convenience store and recreational area.

Social housing non-profit company Communicare previously said they had spent the past four years working with the City to get the much-needed housing project off the ground, but all efforts had been in vain as the City had “continued to stall” the project.

Communicare CEO Anthea Houston said they were approached by council after the matter was referred back and had provided additional clarifications and presentations.

“We addressed all the issues requiring clarification, and we have met all requirements regarding the project, as set by the City. To our knowledge, at this stage, the City is satisfied with our responses,” she said.

At the public meeting on Thursday November 22, Cissie Gool House Leader Bevil Lucas said the City had to understand the historical significance of the area.

“This is part of our history and was part of the resistance to to the apartheid struggle. The ‘stalle’ (stables) used to house the horses and now they house people — people who have been promised homes,” he said.

Mr Lucas asked what the City had done till now and said the project had gone through all the necessary channels. While he believes the project will be approved at the next council meeting, he questioned why local residents had not been consulted during the process.

“This site belongs to the people, yet we were not consulted; while the project will go ahead in all likelihood, but how will we be participating? This development is supposed to benefit our people,” he said.

Nkosikhona Swartbooi, from Reclaim The City, defended its decision to occupy a building at the Waterfront and the old Woodstock library. He said people were being forced out of the inner cities because of gentrification. He said the only alternative accommodation was Blikkiesdorp and Wolwerivier.

“That’s doing the same thing the apartheid government did, removing black and coloured people from the inner-city to the outskirts,” he said.

Trader Zubaida Adams said her family had been trading at the Salt River Market for over 80 years, but she was not sure what would happen to them if the development got the go ahead.

“If we have to relocate to another area, we would need to start all over again. It will be quite difficult as all our clients know who we are and where we are. I feel that we need to be here, as no other market carries the type of fruits that we do,” she said.

Ms Adams said there was one fish stall left from 10 and six fruit and veg stalls from 92, as the tenants were moved out of Salt River.

She recalled years ago, when the site was known as the Farmers’ Market and was a place were residents came together to socialise — where there was a sense of community.

Ms Houston said plans for the site made provision for a variety of trading activity on the site, both formal and informal.

“Many of the traders may therefore be able to be accommodated in the development,” she said.

Speaking about what would happen to those living in the stables, she said those who qualified for social housing would be accommodated.

“These are households with joint incomes of between R1 500 and R15 000,” said Ms Houston.

She said they were still not aware of the price of the land yet but were prepared to pay 10% of the 2018 valuation.

“Ultimately, the price we pay for the land will impact how many units we are able to build since the land price will increase the development costs. The City asked Communicare to model a development that is mixed use, high density with at least 30% social housing. They agreed to release the land at 10% of market value to help cross-subsidise the development as the government grants will be insufficient to build high density housing or just pure social housing on the site. Releasing land at 10% of its value is an agreement that the City has with all of their social housing partners,” she said.