Housing solution on the cards

Brett Herron. Picture: Jason Boud/African News Agency (ANA)

A recent fire at a Woodstock informal settlement has got locals talking about potential developments that could house the people living there and offer better services to those in need.

The fire at the Pine Road informal settlement claimed the life of an eight-month-old girl, (“Devastated”, Southern Suburbs Tatler, April 5), and residents of the informal settlement say they have been requesting services such as electricity and water from the City of Cape Town, but their concerns were overlooked.

Maria Fillies has been living on the land for a number of years and lost her husband about five years ago – also in a shack fire.

“One can’t live like this and the people living here have been asking for help. We have hardworking people living here and lots of people just think we want a handout or people must give us stuff for free. “We want to change our lives and we all want to live safer and happy,” she said.

A Pine Road settlement community leader, Quinton Moos, confirmed that several requests had been lodged with the City, but nobody can say what the future holds for the people of the informal Pine Road camp.
He also confirmed that City officials had met with Pine Road informal settlement residents on a number of occasions, but again, nothing came of these meetings.

“I really cannot understand why the City does not want to help out these people living here. When we asked for electricity, we got nothing and this forces people to use these candles in their home, making it dangerous,” he said.

“How many more people must die in a fire before they realise that they must help?”

The City’s Mayco member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, confirmed that the two erven along Pine Road and six erven along Dillon Lane in Woodstock had been allocated to the Social Housing Company (SOHCO), a registered social housing institution, in July last year for the development of affordable rental units.

“The statutory land use applications, among them building plans and rezoning applications, are under way and we expect construction to commence once these processes have been finalised,” Mr Herron said.

The very first transitional housing project in the area would provide housing to those households who are currently living on the Pine Road site.

Once construction is completed, a private non-profit agency will be contracted to manage the facilities on behalf of the City.

A portion of the Pickwick site, located on the corner of Pickwick and Copperfield roads in Salt River, will also be developed for transitional housing, with construction already under way.

The cost to develop the Pickwick facility amounts to about R11.1 million. It will consist of rooms; communal bathrooms and kitchens; as well as access control to ensure the safety of those living in the facility.

Tenants will be required to sign lease agreements and pay monthly rent based on what they can afford.

The City will subsidise the operational costs through its Rental Indigent Scheme applicable to council tenants.

Mr Herron also confirmed that the development would house residents who were currently living on the Pine Road site. “Those residents who are currently living on the Pine Road site and who are moved to the transitional housing facility at the Pickwick site, will be assisted to access housing opportunities they may qualify for.

“Thus, it is very possible that some of those families could qualify for the social housing opportunities (affordable rental units) that we will be developing in Pine Road, and as such, they may return to live in these units should they qualify in terms of their monthly income, and if they are registered on the City’s housing database,” he explained.

“I want to add that the purpose of transitional housing is to provide households who have been displaced or evicted from their homes with temporary housing while opportunities for permanent housing are procured.”

There are more transitional housing projects in the pipeline – in Salt River, as well as in other areas in Cape Town. The old James Street clinic has been reserved for the second transitional housing project in Salt River and will mostly accommodate residents from this area. City officials are also busy with an audit of City-owned land in Goodwood and Bellville.

“We will confirm the locations once we have established that the potential sites are suitable for transitional housing,” Mr Herron said.