8 August 2017

South Africa: Zille and Housing Activists Hold 'Fruitful' Meeting

Reclaim the City (RTC) activists met with Premier Helen Zille on 3 August to discuss RTC's objections to the application by the Province for rezoning of the Somerset Precinct. Earlier that day, at about 4am, the RTC members had protested outside her house.

The Somerset Precinct, situated between V&A Waterfront and the Cape Town stadium, will consist of both business and housing under the rezoning application. The proposal aims to change the "character of the area from an underutilised, largely inaccessible, institutional precinct containing redundant and dilapidated buildings to a more intensive mixed-use precinct with public access and a pedestrian-friendly environment at street level".

RTC is campaigning for more affordable housing in central Cape Town. The province's rezoning application commits to 300 affordable houses in the Somerset Precinct, but RTC has criticised this as too little; the organisation is also sceptical about how affordable the houses will actually be. Several RTC activists have been occupying the Helen Bowden Nurses Home, which is located in the precinct, since late March.

Activists said in the meeting Zille had promised to ask that the rezoning application be amended to include more affordable social housing.

A statement released by RTC on 4 August read: "According to Zille, while the application had been made before her public commitments, rezoning would provide the Province with a 'package of rights' that could be used to maximise affordable housing on the site. Instead of resubmitting the application, the Premier has advised she will push for an amendment during the rezoning process that better aligns with her commitment to spatial justice".

The statement said Zille had committed to a minimum of 300 social housing units in the Somerset Precinct, as stated in the current application, but she personally wanted to see more.

Zille's spokesperson, Michael Mpofu, said: "The Premier had a very fruitful discussion with the group - which is the preferred way of resolving issues".

Mpofu said maximizing social housing in the Somerset Precinct would depend on whether Somerset Hospital remained a working hospital. "If it does, it significantly reduces the land available," said Mpofu.

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