Housing fury erupts

PATRICIA DE LILLE

Ward 48 councillor, MagedienDavids announced at the Sub-council 17 meeting that he feared for his safety, as he was being inundated with requests for information and even threatened about a proposed housing development to benefit residents of the Vygieskraal informal settlement.

At the meeting, on Thursday June 21, Mr Davids said he understood the frustration of the residents, as they had been promised housing by Mayor Patricia de Lille. However, he added, he had no new information about the proposed project, and this angered the community – to such an extent that he was even being threatened.

“The mayor allocated a site months ago. No housing development can happen at the current site, as it is a wetlands area. However, a site has been identified in Heideveld,” Mr Davids said.

Mischka Chachu, who is among the leadership of the Vygieskraal residents’ committee, said she had no knowledge of people threatening Mr Davids, but added that the community was furious.

“Since 2012, Patricia de Lille signed a memorandum with the residents of Vygieskraal. Money was signed over for us to get houses. They just come with empty promises. People all around us are getting houses. We’ve been living under this condition for years. We can’t raise our children in this conditions anymore. There are always excuses. I don’t have knowledge of threats, but people are furious. I was toyi-toying with residents for housing and I was pregnant, and now my baby is five years old. We don’t even get jobs here. We are sick and tired of the situation.

“We get promised meetings with the mayor but it never happens. I have been living here almost 15 years, some have been living here for much longer and the situation never changed.

Ms Chachu said: “We as community leaders have nothing to tell the community. We heard about a proposed housing development in Heideveld, but they also have their backyarders. They might stand up against us. The City never came up with any plan for us. Everytime we ask Mr Davids about it, he does not have any answers. We are tired of flooding and fires and tuberculosis (TB). I fear for my little ones playing outside. Some people who have TB don’t go to clinic,” Ms Chachu said.

The Athlone News reported on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) Ms De Lille signed in Vygieskraal six years ago (“Improved service delivery for Vygieskraal”, April 25, 2012).

However, there was no mention of a housing development at the time. The MOU was signed in the hope that better services would be made available to the community.

As part of the agreement, plans were in the pipeline to re-block the shacks, to make it easier for the City to respond to an emergency and to provide services. Ms De Lille also promised the community job creation opportunities through the City’s extended public works programme, at the time.

Meanwhile, backyard dwellers in Heideveld marched through the area last week to demand better housing opportunities.

Earlier this year, a group of Heideveld backyarders overpowered security at the housing development in Long Kloof Circle, took 32 sets of keys, and illegally moved into some of the vacant houses (“Housing headaches”, Athlone News, February 7). The 30 people said their actions were the result of their frustration at being overlooked for housing opportunities and having been unfairly treated in the selection process.

Then in May, 500 Heideveld backyard dwellers, frustrated at the long wait for housing, decided to occupy a piece of vacant land along Fifth Street, and on Thursday May 3, started building informal dwellings (“Land occupied”, Athlone News, May 9). It was stated in the Sub-council 17 meeting, that the mayor set aside R27million for the proposed Heideveld housing development.

When asked to confirm this, Brett Herron, the City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said: “Funding for projects is allocated through a budget process and is approved by Council. Mayor De Lille did not decide on anything related to the project. A property in Heideveld was purchased and budget will be made available in the next financial year (2018/19), which commences on 1 July 2018, for the planning and design phase.

“A site was identified in Heideveld. This site is currently being transferred to the City of Cape Town. It should be noted that the site is only 15 063m² in extent and will only be able to accommodate a portion of the Vygieskraal residents as the proposed housing development will also need to provide housing opportunities for the Heideveld community. Professional staff are responsible for the identification of appropriate sites for housing. The mayor did not identify the site. The proposed project is still at a very early stage. Once consultants are appointed, the Project Steering Committee
will be established for all communication purposes. The planning and design phase will commence in August. Consultants will be appointed from the Regional Professional Teams. The appointment is subject to the Section 33 approval by full Council.”

Mr Herron could not confirm how many houses were planned.

He said the number of houses will be determined and confirmed within the planning and design phase, and “once all information is available pertaining to service capacity, possible environmental constraints and all other base data”.