/ 21 April 2017

City doing its best to provide homes for Capetonians — De Lille

Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille.
Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille.

It is severely disappointing that, in the article “Cape Town denies its people a place to call their home” (April 13), after a 90-minute interview and 2 000-word input, our view was reduced to two quotes carefully selected to portray the City of Cape Town as uncaring and out of touch.

It is no secret that there is a housing crisis in Cape Town — and all other cities in South Africa. This follows urbanisation trends the world over. In the last census we saw a 30% increase in population. This has not been matched by an increase in funds for people who qualify for housing from government, intensifying the impact of the apartheid spatial planning legacy.

Despite these challenges, we have sought practical solutions.

Last year, the city set up the Transport and Urban Development Authority Cape Town by combining the functions of transport, urban development and elements of human settlements into one directorate, with the sole aim of reversing the effects of apartheid spatial planning.

This directorate is responsible for implementing our Transit-Orientated Development Strategic Framework, which aims to build a more connected, integrated and inclusive city where residents will have greater access to transport, residential and economic opportunities. The city has identified five projects — in Bellville, Philippi East, Athlone, Paardevlei and the Cape Town central business district — where we will either invest in the improvement of existing public transport infrastructure or provide new infrastructure to ignite urban renewal, economic growth and job creation.

The Foreshore Freeway Project in the city centre consists of six hectares of land that we will release on two conditions: that the proposed development relieves congestion and that it includes affordable housing.

Another example is that the city has social housing developments planned for Salt River and Woodstock at six different locations; an estimated 3 000 families will benefit. These opportunities are intended for residents with income levels of R1 500 to R7 500 a month.

One would think this is important contextual information for a story in which Salt River and Woodstock feature prominently. We are building housing opportunities in these areas, but that does not mean the Bromwell residents automatically qualify for assistance. Outrage and media coverage do not warrant special treatment.

Their court eviction order stated that this was a private eviction, and the city had no obligation to provide alternative accommodation.

We have argued that the Bromwell residents are not entitled to temporary emergency housing at a location of their choice — that being in Salt River or Woodstock. Blue Moonlight, a case I am aware of, stipulates that emergency accommodation must be provided but not that the affected residents choose the location. The city simply does not have temporary emergency housing available in these areas for this purpose.

As the government for all people in Cape Town, it is incumbent upon us to ensure parity and fairness in the provision of housing assistance to those who qualify and are on our housing needs database. It would be unfair to allow some people to jump the queue.

We cannot support a discriminatory approach to housing provision. Allowing choice of locations will disadvantage those waiting on our housing list.

Wolwerivier was also developed in response to an emergency. The beneficiaries were mostly relocated from landfill sites and the city wanted to improve their living conditions. They had no access to services and were in immediate danger caused by a health hazard. They now have one-to-one services and previously did not have access to electricity. Each unit has a built-in toilet and shower with full waterborne services.

Wolwerivier was determined to be suitable because it is in the fast-growing West Coast corridor, which will see the expansion of future opportunities. It is being developed with the intention of being upgraded on an incremental basis to enable the long-term possibility of land transfer to beneficiaries, should they not have taken up an alternative housing opportunity. This project, with a cost of about R50-million, will house 500 families at most.

I personally met the Blikkiesdorp Joint Committee last year to find a solution for the people there. Only 20% of the original residents are still there, the rest having been provided with alternative accommodation. City officials are working on plans for two pieces of land for qualified beneficiaries from Blikkiesdorp, Freedom Farm and Malawi Camp. Residents were employed to conduct a survey of the people in the area. Blikkiesdorp residents will elect and establish a project steering committee, and we will plan together.

All this information was provided to the Mail & Guardian, but the truth was a casualty at the altar of an angle designed to create the impression that the City of Cape Town does not care.

We have no interest in depriving people of homes or perpetuating apartheid spatial planning. I fought in the struggle against apartheid. We have a constitutional obligation to the poor, which we do not shy away from. We have made huge changes to our delivery methods and every day we work with hundreds of communities who are working with us to create progress.

The 66.6% of votes we received in the 2016 local government elections testifies that the majority of residents are happy to work with us in maintaining and improving our status as the best-run city in South Africa.

Patricia de Lille is the executive mayor of the City of Cape Town