New Woodlands housing woes

Shareema Allie, Ella Solomons, Masood Lawrence and Soraya Abrahams, from New Woodlands.

Disgruntled New Woodlands residents will be taking their local ratepayers’ association chairman and ward councillor to task for decisions made regarding the New Woodlands Integrated Residential Development Programme (IRDP).

They held a community meeting in Wolf Kibel park on Thursday December 9 to list their complaints, which include the handing out of certificates to potential beneficiaries four months ago and they are also disputing the beneficiary list and whether they were informed of needing to meet specific housing beneficiary criteria.

Their meeting followed a progress report meeting with New Woodlands backyarders on Tuesday December 7 on the housing project by the provincial Department of Human Settlements, namely the Farm 694 Housing Development, which was started in 2019.

Phase 1 of the development will see 434 Breaking New Ground (BNG)/ fully subsidised housing opportunities being created for beneficiaries. 50 % of the beneficiaries will come from the New Woodlands area, while 50% will come from the Greater Kosovo informal settlement.

The project is expected to be completed by June next year.

To date more than 130 New Woodlands backyarders have been approved as potential recipients of the project, which has 360 foundations; 230 floor slabs; and 54 roofs completed.

Resident and potential recipient, Wagieda Ryland, said they received certificates on August 8 signed by New Woodlands Ratepayers’ Association (RPA) chairman, Shahiem van Nelson (“New Woodlands residents receive promise of a new home”, Plainsman, August 11).

Mr Van Nelson told the Plainsman the certificates were handed out because they were excited about the project’s progress.

He said 101 certificates were handed out to qualified beneficiaries.

“We all felt excited that the wait was nearly over,” he said.

Mr Van Nelson said the greater community of New Woodlands attended monthly meetings regarding this project and were well aware of the integration aspect to it.

Mr Van Nelson said those applicants did not qualify because they did not meet the housing project criteria.

“This RPA never ever promised anyone a house, that was said repeatedly at all the monthly meetings that were held.

“The project is well under way and is expected to house 217 residents who can call their house a home,” he said.

Joan Woodman, councillor for Ward 75, said the certificates was a good gesture from the association.

“We knew the names given were beneficiaries who qualified,” she said.

Ms Ryland asked for minutes of meetings stating the housing criteria and the decision to have the project split 50/50 between residents from Kosovo informal settlement and New Woodlands backyarders (“Building a home together”, Plainsman, November 27 2019).

“We dispute the beneficiary list and want to know who gave authority for the association to make decisions on our behalf,” she said.

Wagieda Ryland

Siddeeqa Griffiths, 32, said she just wants fairness in the allocation of houses.

She said her papers were submitted to the local office but days later it was lost.

“The criteria for getting a house is unfair and people are not getting houses,” she claimed.

The aggrieved group had decided to go to Mr Van Nelson and Ms Woodman to demand answers this week.

Muneera Allie, directorate of communication and stakeholder relations for the provincial Department of Human Settlements, said since the commencement of the project three years ago, a number of community engagements and project steering committee (PSC) meetings were held.

The PSC is made up of government representatives, as well as the community leadership and or associations representing the community. She said this ensures that the community forms part of all decisions regarding the project.

“The qualification criteria have been communicated to the PSC and community at public engagements held since the commencement of the project,” Ms Allie said.

The department appointed the Housing Development Agency (HDA) as the beneficiary administrator to facilitate the subsidy application process and pre-screening of all potential beneficiaries.

At Tuesday’s meeting, representatives from HDA reminded the community of the qualification criteria for the project, which includes: being married or living with a long-term partner, single or divorced, with dependants; a South African citizen or you have a permanent resident’s permit; aged 35 and older; joint monthly household gross income of less than R3 500; not have received a subsidy from government; applicant and partner have never owned property; are registered on the City of Cape Town housing waiting list in accordance with the municipality housing allocation policy; and resides as a backyarder within New Woodlands.

A HDA site office has been established to provide services to beneficiaries regarding subsidy applications and respond to any queries between 9am and 3pm, Tuesday to Friday.

The Farm 694 Housing Development has a budget allocation of R293 million and will include public open spaces, areas available for community facilities and recreational areas.

Ms Allie said the department prioritised housing opportunities to the most vulnerable.

“This includes the elderly, people living with medically certified disabilities, citizens longest on the housing demand database, that is on the waiting list for 15 years and longer, and backyard dwellers.

“The criteria including the age group of 35 has in fact been relaxed from over 40 to 35 for this specific project,” she said.

Ella Solomons, 56, lives in a wendy house with her four adult children and two grandchildren.

She has been on the housing waiting list for 10 years and has been living in a New Woodlands backyard for the past seven years.

“I am very angry because there are no houses for us and there is no certainty,” she said.