Families live in fear of City’s housing plans

A social housing project planned for the site known "Die Stalle" could see several families being evicted from the City-owned land.

If a social housing project in Salt River gets the nod, it would spell the end for an informal settlement located around 21 former horse stables which are adjacent to the well-known Salt River Market plot.

Worrying lines are evident on the faces of families who occupy these stables, some have already accepted that they will be kicked to the curb once the City of Cape Town’s plans are implemented, but they refuse to give up without a fight.

Richard Oostendorp has been living at the site for the last nine years and said his little space was the only home he has ever had.

“My parents were living on the street and for most of my life, I was also living on the streets and I had to look after myself from a very early age. I had a job, but that company closed down and I have been struggling since that time,” Mr Oostendorp said.

Originally from Worcester, he arrived in Cape Town in search of a better life, but instead, found himself on the streets once again, meeting an old friend who introduced him to the stables which are often referred to as “Die Stalle”. “I slept here with him on the floor for a few nights and I was supposed to go find work, because he was working on a construction site. He then left me in charge of the room during the day and I would clean up and cook what I could for us.”

By this time, other families had become well acquainted with Mr Oostendorp, but tragedy struck, when his friend did not return home from work one afternoon.

“I went to the police station to report him missing and later on, we were told he was robbed on the station, stabbed and killed. When that news came out, there were people who wanted to kick me out of here and take the room, but the people then stood up for me and they wanted me to live here, because Henry would have wanted that,” he said, clearly drifting away into some thoughts of his late friend.

Another mother of three, who did not want to be named, said their future remains uncertain and if the City decides to remove the families from the land, where to next, would be a question she is unable to answer.

The mother was afraid to be identified as she had already engaged in several discussions with the City regarding the future of the land.

“I have asked the City numerous times if they planned to relocate us or if we are part of the plans. They refused to answer any of us, but instead, they (City of Cape Town) leave us in the dark and when the time comes, they plan to put us back on the street and start with some fancy housing project,” she said.

The land is owned by the City. It was previously used by hawkers who kept their horses and carts inside the stables. Hawkers from the stables started a carrying service in the late 1940s or early 1950s called the “Trip Carts”, which catered to stallholders without transport who bought produce from the market, previously known as Sir Lowry Road Market. Over time, the horse and cart carrying service was replaced by vehicle deliveries.

The City’s Mayco member for human settlements, Benedicta van Minnen, confirmed that the site had been earmarked for a social housing development.

“The City can confirm that the social housing project for the Salt River Market plot is still in the planning phase and therefore no further details are available at this stage,” she said.

Ms Van Minnen added that the market site is recognised as a strategically located site within the Salt River area and the development potential of the market is being investigated by the City.

“As the area transforms, the City must consider the future of the market to ensure that maximum social benefit is achieved from the use of the asset. Through its envisaged development for social housing, the site offers the ability to provide affordable rental accommodation on a sustainable basis within the Salt River area,” she said.

The City are also remains aware of the market’s history and age.

“Initial investigations have indicated that there is the potential for revitalisation and this could take the form of a mixed-use development. The City is currently testing the viability of such a development. Accordingly, no concrete proposals have been put forward. Once the outcome of the current work is known, this information will be fed back to the sub-council and other City structures,” Ms Van Minnen said.