Housing green light

The open piece of land in Ottery where the housing development will be built.

More than 5000 families will have access to housing opportunities in the
southern suburbs by the end of 2024.

Plans for the Greater Retreat Housing Project have finally come to fruition after months of frustration from backyard dwellers and those on the waiting list who have questioned whether the plans were real.

Parkwood residents protested for months last year about the lack of housing opportunities and wanted to occupy the land next to Prince George Drive.

Following these protests, the provincial government tested over 60 pockets of land in the various wards to check if they were suitable to be used for housing.

The 66 pockets of land total 279 hectares of land and the department is now looking at an additional 179 parcels of land which are owned by different spheres of government and other private owners.

The R1.5 billion mixed-development project will include Breaking New Ground (BNG) or free houses, Community Residential Units (CRU), rental- and social housing, open market and Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP).

The project is currently in its planning phase, which includes various investigations and assessments and is estimated to start in mid 2021 and finish in 2024.

Parkwood residents, however, remain sceptical that the housing plan will materialise.

Dominique Booysen, chairperson of the Parkwood Backyard Dweller Association and a member of the Greater Retreat Project Steering Committee (PSC), said residents do not believe the plan is real.

“I’ve told people but it wasn’t received well. They say the government has been promising this housing project but their promises have been empty. People do not trust that this will happen,”said Mr Booysen.

Backyard dweller Charmaine Julies, who has been on the waiting list for 22 years, is among those not holding their breath that the housing will be made available.

“People are not interested in these stories anymore because we feel the government is only trying to silence us and tried to stop the protests. Where does all this money come from now? This should have been looked into long ago then we would have been in houses already.

“We shouldn’t have to protests and cause chaos to get much- needed housing.

“We will believe it when we see tractors and the turning of the soil for the foundation to be laid. Other than that we cannot get our hopes up because we do not want to be disappointed again,” said Ms Julies.

Howard Soetwater from the United Homeless People Development Association (UHPDA) attended the meetings and said they are happy the announcement was made but said residents have concerns.

“Firstly, it is a very long wait for these houses. The other problem is that there is not a lot of clarity. People are confused because we don’t know where the houses will be built and who will benefit. People think these plans are high up in the sky and unattainable.”

Responding to the concerns ,Human Settlements MEC Tertius Simmers called on residents to not allow themselves to be duped by “unscrupulous characters” spreading false information about the project.

“Regrettably there are individuals stating that the project will not commence, and/ or that it will not deliver the number of units it is estimating. Furthermore that government is misleading the residents. These are all false.

“Instead, potential beneficiaries should engage their project steering committees and ward councillors to acquire the correct information. As the provincial government, we remain committed to accelerating human settlement delivery, while promoting social inclusion through the development of integrated, resilient and sustainable human settlements in an open opportunity society,” he said.

He also commended communities and steering committees, ward councillors, civic organisations and all other stakeholders for their engagements.

“I also thank them for giving me the opportunity to clearly state what our housing allocation criteria is, and how we need to ensure that those longest on the housing demand database, along with the most vulnerable having to benefit first.”