Emotional move for Pine Road settlers

Sandile Badula and Elroy Pofadder packing their belongings.

Pine Road families will not have to battle the harsh winter conditions for the first time in years, as they moved into the new Pickwick transitional housing site last week.

The R11 million facility in Salt River, a first for the city, will provide short-term accommodation for the families who lived at the Pine Road site, which once complete, will provide about 230 social housing opportunities.

The housing site, on the corner of Pickwick and Copperfield roads, has 42 rooms, communal bathrooms and kitchens, as well as access control to ensure the safety of tenants.

Malusi Booi, mayoral committee member for human settlements, said it was important for the Pine Road residents to not be displaced but to be offered short-term accommodation in the area and at a nominal cost.

“The families offered short-term accommodation in the facility will sign lease agreements and pay a monthly rental, based on what they can afford and the size of the room.

“If necessary, the City would subsidise the operational costs through its rental indigent scheme applicable to council tenants,” he said.

On Monday May 20, the families packed up their belongings and moved into the transitional housing site, with excitement as many could not contain their tears.

Anthony Rose, 57, had been living at the informal settlement for the past 35 years. He was one of the first to set up a shack there.

“At Pickwick, there will be decent facilities, we will have a safe place to stay and a proper roof over our head,” he said.

Mr Rose said he did not want to live in a shack for the rest of his life and said that while some people didn’t want to “adapt” to the changes – he was more than willing.

Pieter van der Ventel has been living in a container at Pine Road for about 20 years. He will be sharing a room with Mr Rose and said he was excited about the move.

While, many families were thrilled, 71-year-old George Ar-
endse, said he did not want to move from his wendy house, which he had built on for the past 30 years, to a one bedroom.

“Why must we move? I am happy here. What must I do with all my belongings and my furniture?” he asked.

Mr Booi said officials would seek “amicable solutions” for those unwilling to move.

Reclaim the City’s Zacharia Mashele said the human settlements directorate should be congratulated for building the first transitional housing close to the city.

“This is a completely new approach to housing, where families who face eviction or other emergencies live communally in a managed building with security and other support services.

“Now we need to ensure that this model is rolled out across well-located areas and in every new social housing project. Then the City can provide meaningful options for tenants facing homelessness at the courts.”

Mr Booi said some of these families who have a combined income of R15000, could qualify for the social housing opportunities to be developed in Pine Road.

“As such, they may choose to return to live in these units should they qualify. The intention is not for tenants to live at the transitional site in Pickwick Street on a permanent basis, but rather to provide them with a helping hand, and to accommodate them in the short-term,” he said.

“At the site, short-term tenants will have access to social services, while they are in the process of finding more permanent housing opportunities elsewhere. In this way, when they move on, the space at the transitional site becomes available for other short-term tenants.”

Mr Booi said the relocation was significant as it not only marked a new chapter in the lives of the residents who had been living in the informal settlement, but it also paved the way for the City’s first of more than 2000 affordable and social housing opportunities near the city centre.

“It was an emotional day, and I truly wish that these families will see a vast improvement in their living conditions going forward,” he said.

Mr Booi said security measures were in place, both at the Pickwick transitional site as well as the land in Pine Road.

“Security guards have been deployed to both sites. The residents’ biometrics have been registered as part of the access-control measures in place at the transitional housing site.

“Also, the Pine Road site will be fenced and will benefit from patrols by City law enforcement, the Woodstock Improvement District, Business Improvement District and the neighbourhood watch, which will assist in ensuring that it is secured for the development of social housing opportunities.”