The long wait for a place called home

Rashieda Solomons, 45.

Rashieda Solomons, says she has been on the provincial-housing waiting list for 27 years and she wonders how much longer she must wait for a home of her own.

The 45-year-old Tafelsig mother applied for a state-subsidised house, along with her then husband, in June of 1995.

For the past six years, each time she visits Groote Schuur Hospital, where she is an outpatient, she drops by the City’s housing department at the civic centre to see where her housing application is in the queue. She says she is currently 22 151 on provincial list of more than 588 000 applicants. She finds it hard to believe that applicants from the early 1990s are still waiting.

“How can they tell me since 2016 that they are still accommodating people who have been on the housing waiting list since 1991?” she said. “I have had enough.”

From her Beacon Valley childhood home, she and her then husband moved to his parents in Lentegeur. After that, they lived in Strandfontein with an uncle.

After Ms Solomons divorced her husband, she and her daughter, who was 1 at the time, moved from a wendy house to a separate entrance to a drug merchant’s house.

“I can’t begin to explain how I feel,” she said. “I have health problems. I have panic attacks. So many things have happened to me as a single parent. I have sleepless nights.”

Ms Solomons’s daughter is now 23 and she lives with her in a separate entrance in Tafelsig.

“My daughter works, and I am selling detergents and food as a form of income.”

She said it was frustrating to see people younger than her moving into state-subsidised homes.

“I attend all of the public housing meetings but nothing has come of it.”

Najuwa Gallant, chairperson of Tafelsig People’s Association (TPA), said it was hard for Mitchell’s Plain’s backyarders to get state-subsidised houses as other areas seemed to take priority.

“I don’t understand why Mitchell’s Plain is not prioritised,” she said, adding: “The backyarders are not squatters. They pay ridiculously high rental to live in someone else’s yard. It is really sad to see the conditions in which they live.”

Disputes that had seen work stall at housing projects were selfish and ignored the interests of the broader community, she said.

Heavy-duty machinery was destroyed when a petrol bomb exploded at one of three sites that make up the Beacon Valley Housing Project in August 2020 (“Housing project site petrol-bombed,” Plainsman August 5, 2020). And last year, the contractor of the R95 million project, expected to house 1 809 Mitchell’s Plain families, “de-established” because of the “unsafe working environment” (“Housing project halted,” Plainsman October 27, 2021).

Provincial Department of Human Settlements spokesman Nathan Adriaanse said Ms Solomons’s application was “pending“ for the Beacon Valley Project, which had been delayed because of vandalism and gangsterism.

The department only had one waiting list and the municipality had a housing-demand database, he noted, adding that beneficiaries of City housing projects were chosen in accordance with the municipality’s housing-opportunities allocation policy and the housing-needs register.

”This ensures that housing opportunities are provided in a fair, transparent and equitable manner.“

Mr Adriaanse said the department had a project in New Woodlands that catered specifically for backyarders.

The City told the Plainsman that the demand for affordable housing in Cape Town, compared to other cities in South Africa, was acute, and there were more than 340 000 applicants with a “waiting status” registered with the City’s housing-needs register.

“It must be noted the register is not static – as opportunities are awarded to beneficiaries, they are removed from the database, and new beneficiaries are added,” said the City statement, adding that there was no specific waiting period for residents to wait for an allocated housing opportunity.

“It depends on the availability of housing opportunities and whether applicants qualify when the opportunities do become available.”

According to the City, there are potential housing opportunities in and around Mitchell’s Plain, including Pelican Park Phase 2 with an estimated 1 900 Breaking New Ground, GAP and market-related houses planned for the phase, and construction of the top structures is due to be completed by the end of 2029.

While the Beacon Valley Housing Project had been delayed, it had not been cancelled, and civil and bulk water construction works would go out to public tender in the second quarter of 2022, said the City.

More than 1 800 opportunities are planned for this housing project.

Civil and bulk water construction works will go out to public tender in the second quarter of 2022 for the Highlands Drive Infill Project expected to yield 700 opportunities.

Phase One of Regent Villas, in Weltevreden Valley, has been completed and was launched with 104 social housing opportunities.