Horns lock over housing

Residents of New Woodlands have slammed the Department of Human Settlements for not consulting them about the Southern Corridor housing development for residents of Kosovo informal settlement.

More than 500 people attended a public meeting at Northwood hall on Wednesday July 12. At the meeting, residents demanded information and answers about the development from the department.

A presentation was done by Rosemary Jacobs from the Human Settlements Department. She said the City of Cape Town and the Department of Human Settlements were jointly planning a “catalytic human settlements programme”.

The project, referred to as the Southern Corridor housing project, focuses on a number of informal settlements along the N2 of which Kosovo is one.

Kosovo informal settlement, which borders The Leagues and forms part of Ward 88, but was previously part of Ward 33.

The land identified for the housing development is in New Woodlands, in Ward 75, which forms part of Sub-council 23.

According to the department, the project should be completed by 2022 – at a cost of R1.5 billion – if all approvals are in place.

Chairperson of the New Woodlands Ratepayers’ Association, Shahiem van Nelson, said residents had not been informed about the development, until they heard about the housing presentation at Sub-council 13 in May.

“We are not against people getting houses. What we are saying is that there are hundreds of people in Mitchell’s Plain who are in need of housing too. There are so many people who are on the waiting list and so the other option is to become a backyard dweller,” he said.

Mr Van Nelson said residents had planned to demonstrate on the property yesterday, Tuesday July 18 and today, Wednesday July 19, and tomorrow, Thursday July 20.

The association would meet with Sub-council 23 representatives to discuss the development.

Deputy chairperson of Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association (MURA), Michael Jacobs, said the associations and residents would put pressure on the department for answers about the development. “This has been in the pipeline for a long time. Why were people not informed when it was first earmarked?

“Why do the presentation in Sub-council 13 and not Sub-council 23 where the development will take place? Why were residents not consulted? Where is the transparency?

“We want the MEC of Human Settlements to come to the people and explain to residents what’s happening with the development,” he said.

Nathan Adriaanse, director of communications and stakeholder relations at the Department of Human Settlements, said MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela had no objection to meeting with residents.

Mr Adriaanse said the project was still in its planning phase and timeframes had therefore not yet been put in place. He added that the Land Use Planning Applications would be submitted in September.

An emotional Abeeda Carolisen, from New Woodlands, said Mitchell’s Plain residents were in need of housing and wanted to know how many of the houses built would be allocated to them. “How many homes are overcrowded? How many people are forced to put up a structure behind someone’s home in Mitchell’s Plain? If you are building in our area, at least give us (Mitchell’s Plain residents) 50% of the houses,” she pleaded.

“It is heartsore to see how other areas are getting homes, and here these residents have been waiting for many years. The department didn’t even think of doing a door-to-door (campaign) or even hosting a meeting. That means that they didn’t consider us. We were not important,” she said.

Another New Woodlands resident, Regina Martins, questioned Ms Jacobs about who would be employed to do the construction.

“Are they going to source the people of Mitchell’s Plain to build these houses? I am asking this because when the Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital was built, I walked with matrics to have them work on the construction, but none of them received this opportunity,” she said.

When the Plainsman asked Mr Adriaanse why the presentation had been done Sub-council 13 and not 23, he said: “As with any development, this was tabled at the sub-council. It is up to the local councillor to keep the broader community which they represent informed of any developments which could potentially affect them.”

At the meeting, residents requested information about the number of homes and asked who would benefit from the housing opportunity. When we posed this question to Mr Adriaanse, he said he was not able to provide information about the size and number of homes that would be built as the full and final allocation had not been decided on yet.

“The Kosovo informal settlement will be upgraded and not all of the Kosovo residents will be accommodated in that upgrade, hence the need to identify other opportunities within close proximity,” he said.

Asked about who construction tenders would go to, Mr Adriaanse said all provincial Department of Human Settlements contracts had an agreed clause which stipulated that a certain percentage of labour would be sourced from the community.

Chumisa Thompson, who has lived in Kosovo for 17 years, said residents of the informal settlement were in need of housing.

Ms Thompson, who has six people living in her shack, added that it was difficult living in the informal settlement, particularly in the winter months.

“We have been living in the area for many years and people have experienced flooding and fires here. It is a battle with the services, such as water and toilet facilities, so obviously a housing opportunity will be beneficial.

“The housing department has informed us about the land they identified in New Woodlands, but they have not selected any residents yet. So now we too are awaiting feedback from the department,” she said.

Ms Thompson added that she did not believe the land in New Woodlands would be sufficient for all residents living in Kosovo.

“There are thousands of people living in Kosovo. My concern is that there will not be enough homes for the residents. So we are not sure if they are looking at other locations to assist all the residents,” she said.

Siphiwo Nqamnduku, ward councillor for Ward 88, said residents of Kosovo were desperate for housing.

“The residents have been living in the informal settlements for many years with limited services.

“As a ward councillor, I have received a mandate from the people, with regards to housing.

“This is now in the hands of province and residents are now waiting for feedback regarding this housing opportunity,” he said.

When the Plainsman asked Joan Woodman, the councillor for Ward 75, about the housing development, she said she was aware of it and would be meeting with the New Woodlands Ratepayers’ Association executive tomorrow, Thursday July 20.