Long wait for land

One of the seven proposed sites identified for housing.

Parkwood residents are awaiting the outcome of a report to see if their housing demands will be met.

Last week seven vacant plots in and around Parkwood and Lotus River were identified as possible sites for social housing projects.

The announcement was made at a meeting held in Parkwood last week with officials from the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, the City of Cape Town and leadership from the community to address the lack of housing in Parkwood.

Over the past two months, violent protests have taken place, with backyard dwellers occupying open land between Prince George Drive and Walmer Road in Parkwood. The City’s land invasion unit removed the shacks built by desperate residents which resulted in several stand-offs between law enforcement, police and residents.

Several people were arrested for public violence and millions of rands in damages were reported when shops, the Parkwood community centre and housing office were gutted.

Over the past few weeks, the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements and the City of Cape Town have been in talks with community leaders to address their concerns and look for a solution.

At the meeting on Tuesday June 19, the community leaders were shown a map with the seven proposed plots earmarked for possible housing.

Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka, spokesperson for Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela, confirmed the land was identified after the City of Cape Town completed an audit of available land within Parkwood and surrounding areas such as Ottery, Grassy Park and Lotus River.

She said, however, the identification of various parcels of land did not in any way suggest that they were suitable for development.

“This is why the department has committed to appointing a full professional team of consultants to carefully evaluate each parcel of land,” said Ms Makoba-Somdaka.

The team consisting of town planners, engineers and designers have been appointed to assess the seven sites. None of these sites are currently ready to be developed for housing and would first need to be rezoned. Some are road reserves and some are affected by flood lines.

The officials will report back to community leaders in a month on the feasibility of the land being rezoned for housing purposes.

The City of Cape Town also confirmed that there is no human settlement project for Parkwood for the coming financial year 2018/ 2019.

When asked where exactly these parcels of land are located, the department refused to comment, fearing that residents would occupy the land.

Asked who would benefit and who would qualify for housing if the sites are feasible for human settlement. Ms Makoba-Somdaka said: “The issue of eligibility for any proposed human settlement within Parkwood is not an item which we need to be discussing. However, we will use the normal criteria which we use in all our other human settlements projects,” she said.

This will mean prioritising those who have been on the housing waiting list first.

Community leader Paul Phillips said he was satisfied with government’s proposal.

“Why did it have to take violent protests for government to realise we are serious about the circumstances our backyarders live in? We need housing and they are currently looking at ways to address this. That is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Mr Phillips, however, said residents were not prepared to wait for five or 10 years for housing.

“The circumstances are dire and currently there are no housing projects planned which means that it would be a long process. We are asking government to fast-track this because our people are suffering,” said Mr Phillips.

He said the provisional agreement with government regarding the pockets of land had been well received.

“The land identified is in and around Parkwood so people will not be uprooted. We will meet in a month and give feedback to the community,” said Mr Phillips.

Parkwood Backyarders’ Committee chairperson Dominique Booysen agreed the engagement with government had been fruitful and hoped the land will be rezoned for housing.

“The land was identified and hopefully will be inspected. This is a step in the right direction. We as residents now have to give them a chance to investigate and stay positive. We are hopeful the land will be made available for housing. We also hope that they are not just feeding us lies and giving us false hope,” said Mr Booysen

He urged backyarders to be patient: “Everything is a process and although we know things won’t happen overnight, we hope it will be fast-tracked. We desperately need housing,” he said.