13 March 2017

South Africa: Jewish Capetonians Sign Petition Calling for Social Housing At Tafelberg

More than 250 members of the Jewish community have signed a petition calling for social housing on the controversial Tafelberg site in Sea Point. They believe the site is perfectly placed to advance equality and integration in the city.

The nearly two-hectare Tafelberg property, the last sizeable state-owned land in the suburb, has been at the centre of debates on affordable accommodation near the CBD.

The property was going to be sold to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School (PJJDS) for R135 million. The sale was halted in May 2016 after the Western Cape High Court ordered the provincial government to open the process to public participation.

Government released a feasibility study in November that considers a mixed use development that includes 270 rental units for people earning less than R7,500 per month. The study also proposes shops and that the old school building, which is a heritage site, could become a community facility. The public had until 10 February to comment.

Days before the community meeting on 26 January called by activist organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi, a widely circulated email discouraged members of Sea Point's Jewish community from attending, warning that their participation "may be detrimental to the community's interest". The email was signed by Lance Katz, the vice-chair of the PJJDS, and Samuel Seeff, Chairman of an organisation called the Western Province Priorities and Planning Board. But many Jewish people did attend the meeting, and nearly all who spoke expressed support for the mixed-use development.

Now, a petition signed by about 260 members of the Jewish community, nearly all residents of Cape Town, calls for the "dismantling of spatial apartheid in Cape Town". It was submitted to the provincial government on 15 February. It mentioned that areas like Sea Point with "an excellent public transport and schools" should be accessible to anyone. The petition appeared as an advert on page five in the latest issue of Jewish Report.

The petition also said government should make affordable housing available to "those who have contributed immensely to the wellbeing of the broader Sea Point community".

One of the signatories, Daniel Linde, said the petition was compiled a few weeks ago by a group of young Jewish people supporting the call by activists for social housing in the city.

Linde said that while some of the signatories were not against the private Jewish school acquiring the Tafelberg site, they believed it is the perfect location to advance equality.

"Using the site for social housing will allow working class people to live closer to their work and to good schools, hospitals, public parks, and the promenade, to name a few. As we noted in our letter, the Western Cape's own social housing model for the site could still accommodate a community centre, or a school like Phyllis Jowell," he said.

Linde said it was critical for the Jewish community to be vocal on this matter in order to "dispel inaccurate" claims that they do not support the campaign for social housing in Tafelberg.

"Many of us believe that Sea Point and our city will be a more equal and just place for everyone to enjoy, including the Jewish community, if social housing and integration is advanced," he said.

Isa-Lee Jacobson, who also signed the petition, said: "The submission was made to Province on 15 February which was the deadline for comments regarding Tafelberg after Province released its feasibility study on 30 November 2016. Many others submitted by that due date. We hope for it to be considered when Cabinet makes its decision on Tafelberg on 22nd March." The provincial government is currently deciding on the future of the property.

The provincial government, Lance Katz and Samuel Seeff were asked on Friday to comment on the petition, but had not responded by the time of publication.

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