Eye on the profit

Howard Smith, Woodstock

Further families are facing imminent eviction from homes they have known for decades in Woodstock.

The Bromwell Street evictions (“Bromwell Street residents stand up,” Tatler September 1) follow those of Chapel Street, Gympie Street and many others over the years that didn’t come to public attention.

All have two factors in common: developers who stand to make a substantial profit and poor people with limited prospects of alternative reasonable accommodation to meet their needs.

Developer Jacques van Embden tries to portray his R50 000 crowd-funding donation as generous. Really? Tatler readers and the displaced residents would be less cynical of this if he presented us also with the business plan for the development showing the purchase price of the properties, the development costs and the anticipated profit he and his associates expect to realise.

To this profit expectation may be added the profits anticipated by the various contractors who will build his development, the estate agents and solicitors that will be involved, and of course the banks and other financial institutions who will finance the development. That substantial total will put the R50 000 offer in perspective.

Henry Ford, the billionaire founder of the mass production car company, wrote that he didn’t make cars for their own sake, but in order to make a profit.

Mr Van Embden fits that mould too – if there wasn’t profit in the proposed development, he wouldn’t be doing it, and because his eye is on that profit he has no more care for the families he displaces than a pedestrian stepping on an ant. It is his business and as such has little impact on his conscience.

That elected councillors representing the residents of the city should turn a blind eye to the results of developer’s avarice is, however, shameful.

The City of Cape Town pretends to bemoan the fact that it cannot keep up with the growth of informal settlements and backyard shacks yet good affordable housing is being lost throughout Woodstock and adjoining areas, adding to the homeless numbers – all as a result of the DA-led City’s developer-friendly policies.

Though at a late stage, maybe Mr Van Embden would consider revising his development proposal and build instead 30 (instead of “50 to 75”) middle-income housing units and 30 housing units at rentals affordable by the less well-off, with priority for occupation of the latter given to the Bromwell Street families and other low-income families facing eviction.

Unless developers elect to contribute to a “City for All” they will continue to be seen as the contemporary equivalent of the fat man riding on the back of the emaciated donkey, feeding it occasional carrots but ignoring the beast’s plea for him to get off its back.”