Backyarders’ fight

Two years since a court order called for the City of Cape Town to work with the community on housing issues, little progress has been made, say locals.

The Western Cape High Court handed down an order on 1 August 2016 that members of the United Homeless People’s Development Association (UHPDA) may no longer illegally occupy land behind Crestway High School in Lavender Hill (“Illegal settlers ‘victorious’”, People’s Post, 23 August 2016)­.

The order also stipulated that the City, which instituted the court proceedings, must engage with the community in order to provide houses in the area.

According to Howard Soetwater, chairperson of UHPDA, it has been two years and not much has been done since.

While he is aware that a ward allocation of R800 000 has been made available for a the project over the next two financial years, the details have yet to be communicated, he says. “There is no indication or clear framework on how they are going to spend the money, who is spending the money and when this is going to take place and when it is going to be finished.

“We’re struggling with this project for almost six years already. Now the community is asking questions and we are fighting for it. Presently there is no communication between us and the subcouncil, because the issue is no longer on the agenda.

“Normally, we all go to subcouncil meetings, but for the last two to three months we did not go, because there has not been any update with regard to where the project is going,” he says.

Mayco member for transport and urban development Brett Herron says there has been continual engagements at subcouncil 18’s offices with UHPDA on request.

“Three land parcels in Retreat were investigated for future development. However, only erf 81710 will be immediately pursued for implementation at this point in time,” says Herron.

He adds the City will appoint consultants this month.

“Once the consultants have been appointed, the process of gaining environmental, town planning and other approvals can commence. It will depend on the complexity of the approvals that are required. Only once the type and extent of the required applications are known can a timeline be finalised. That said, feasibility studies that were undertaken during 2017 indicated that there are no major obstacles to the potential development of the site,” says Herron.

Soetwater says residents are planning to approach the City again and maintains they are merely challenging the City on their own stipulations. “We have people who are on the waiting list for 20 years, but the most important thing is that we want to implement the people’s housing project,” says Soetwater.

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