Green light for Salt River housing plan

The City is set to build an inner-city housing project in Salt River to give temporary refuge to those who would otherwise end up on the street.

The R11 million development proposal is for a facility – with 42 rooms and 85 beds, communal bathrooms and kitchens as well as access control – to be built on City land on the corner of Pickwick and Copperfield roads.

The Pickwick Transitional Housing Project, approved by full council last week, will house displaced or evicted households until they can find somewhere more permanent to stay.

With the City subsidising operational costs, residents will sign leases and pay rent based on what they can afford.

Salt River clothing factory worker Noorjihaan Alexander is excited about the plan. She and her three children live with her parents in a two-bedroom house in Woodstock.

“We stayed for many years in Salt River, but after my husband passed away, I was unable to see to our household and I eventually lost the house and had to move in with my parents. In a short period of time, I lost my husband and my home,” she said.

Ms Alexander said the site was close to transport and other amenities.

“My only concern is will the City actually be able to accommodate the number of people who are in need of this sort of housing?”

So would she fancy a move to the Pickwick site in future? Before Ms Alexander could answer, her six-year-old daughter, Salwa, said: “Yes! That would be very nice.” Woodstock businessman Jeff Chadwick said he backed the plan, which he described as a “good model” that could help many people, as long as the City stuck to its promises to keep it safe and secure.

“We really do not want some slum on our doorstep, something that will end up affecting all around here,” he said. “Put up something that can benefit the community, instead of something that will end up affecting it.”

Earlier this month, the City announced plans to meet the growing call for affordable inner-city housing, identifying 10 City-owned sites for such projects.

Three of these sites – two plots along Pine Road and six along Dillon Lane and the Salt River Market in Albert Road – have already been allocated to social housing institutions.

The statutory land-use applications are under way and the City expects construction to start soon.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said the Pickwick plan was a new approach to tackling the urgent demand for housing.

“Part of the undertaking is to, within our means, provide those who are facing emergency situations with safe, decent, and affordable temporary housing as close as possible to where they are working, or at least as close as possible to where they can get onto a bus, train or minibus-taxi.”

A private non-profit agency will manage the facility on behalf of the City once it was built.

Mr Herron said more transitional housing projects were in the pipeline elsewhere across the metro, and officials had done an audit of City land in Goodwood and Bellville.

“We will confirm the locations once we have established that the potential sites are suitable to include transitional housing.”

He said the City was moving away from a “piecemeal” to “precinct” development approach, one that was being applied first in the inner-city areas, and which was in line with a transit-oriented strategy prioritising development around public transport and job opportunities.