South Africa: Parkwood Residents 'Losing Hope' of Receiving Social Housing

Parkwood residents frustrated with a lack of affordable housing erected shacks on an open field along the M5 in May.
10 December 2018

Four months have passed since a team of experts visited several sites where social and affordable housing could be built for backyarders in Parkwood and surrounding areas.

Since then, residents say they have been in the dark about the progress of the project. Following questions sent to the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements on Wednesday, officials said an update on the project would be given at a meeting with residents on Monday.

This was in response to a wave of protests in May by hundreds of Parkwood residents, most of whom were backyard dwellers. The group blockaded the busy M5 freeway and attempted to erect shacks on an open field of government-owned land in frustration over the lack of housing in the area that has resulted in overcrowding. Backyarders have also complained that rents, electricity and water costs are high in the City's rental flats.

On 19 June, government officials revealed that at least seven sites in Cape Town's southern suburbs, including Parkwood, Lotus River and Retreat, had been identified for possible social and affordable housing.

In August, Minister Bonginkosi Madikizela introduced the team of engineers, planners and designers at a joint meeting with the City of Cape Town. They were expected to visit each of the sites on its viability to be used for housing.

When GroundUp visited Parkwood last week, chairperson of the Parkwood backyarders' association, Dominique Booysen, said people were losing hope that this project would start any time soon.

"The community is losing trust in us as leaders because they don't see anything happening," he said. "The Minister hasn't been back here. August was the last community engagement they had where empty promises were made."

Booysen said the project's newly selected steering committee includes officials and two representatives from each of the communities set to benefit from the project. A meeting to update residents on the progress of the project was also postponed in November, he added.

Ward 66 councillor William Akim told GroundUp that the project's steering committee has had regular meetings and would be reporting back to the community this week.

"We have discussed using the City of Cape Town's database for the housing list. This is to ensure fair allocation of houses once the project has been completed," he said.

"The backyarders had a drive a few months ago to register people and update those already on the waiting list. There were many people who only registered on 8 August. That said, we will be taking age, people with disabilities and other things into consideration when allocating the homes. There are also people living in informal settlements that will be considered," he said.

Akim added that plans to rebuild the community centre that was burnt down during the protests were underway. He said the rebuild is expected to cost approximately R13 million. "Specialists have been appointed. We were told that the plan is to build a better centre that can be used by our community. I was just happy to have the building dismantled because young boys were climbing on top of the structure and [the possibility of it] being used for crime was a concern," he said.

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