Bold move for housing

Well-built homes are being constructed in Texas.

Hangberg residents say they are now clearing state land and building brick homes on it because the City of Cape Town has failed to tackle the housing crisis in their community.

The City, in turn, considers the building of homes a “land invasion” and says it will take “corrective actions”.

In the past six weeks, about 20 houses have sprung up in Texas and above Die Sloot, where the land below Sentinel Peak has also been levelled.

Fed up with the stalled Hangberg Improvement Development Area (HiDA) project and “empty promises” from the City to address housing and service delivery gripes, the residents have taken matters into their own hands, building solid homes that withstand bad weather.

Eddie Thompson, of the Hangberg Concerned Residents Group, said they could no longer stop residents from building decent homes for their families.

Since late last year, the group has been meeting with City officials to try to resolve the land and housing issue in the wake of last year’s protests over these issues.

They have tried to get the City to give them a deadline for the completion of the HiDA project and establish what will happen to residents living above the fire break.

The City has blamed the hold-up with the housing project on a stalled transfer process between SANParks – which owns the land – and the City.

At a meeting in March, mayor Patricia de Lille pledged to personally oversee the transfer process (“Proposals made to Hangberg residents group,” Sentinel, March 16).

The residents were angered by the repeated absence of “decision-making” SANParks officials at the meetings.

In May, they heard zoning issues had delayed construction by two years on two sites that had been earmarked for housing, creating further tension in the housing crisis.

Frustrated, some residents have now decided to occupy the land and build houses.

The Hangberg Peace Accord, signed in the wake of the 2010 riots in the area, compelled the City to make improvements in Hangberg, but Mr Thompson said the City had violated the terms of the agreement.

“As a group, we can no longer hold back residents from building. This is happening in Texas and above Die Sloot,” he said, adding that those in Texas had received permission from the governing Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF) to do so.

“The people who are building can afford to do so, so we can’t stop them. The people have the means to build, but the problem has been access to land, and the City has not helped them.”

Another Concerned Residents Group member Marc Jacobs accused the City of violating the Hangberg Peace Accord.

“The City sold off land to private property owners (alongside Hangberg), and the Peace Accord clearly states that no land may be sold to anyone,” Mr Jacobs said.

“People want to live in proper homes now, not an informal settlement. So I don’t blame anyone for building.

“Those who are building are the extended families of people already living in council houses.”

PMF chairperson Jan Lewis concurred that people were frustrated with delays in housing projects, and the forum did not have the authority to stop residents from building their own homes.

The land in Texas was owned by the national department of public works, but here, too, the roll-out of housing had been stalled due to delays in the formal process, he said.

“I want to make it clear that we cannot give people the permission to build, but if their houses are accepted by public works or SANParks or the City, we will support them in their application to receive services like water and electricity,” he said.

Two residents building in Texas said they were tired of “promises, promises, promises” from the City.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said the City had allowed newcomers to Hout Bay to build homes “for years” in Imizamo Yethu with no repercussions.

“Our people originally came from areas where the police station and Mandela Park are now, but we were moved under the Group Areas Act. We were moved to places here (Hangberg) that were too small. For years the City has promised us adequate housing, but nothing is happening,” one man said.

The other resident said they hoped the City would provide the new homes with water and electricity.

“We are happy to build the houses ourselves, but we want the City to legitimise them by providing these services,” he said.

Xanthea Limberg, the City’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, said any building work done without the permission or consent of the owner was considered an illegal land invasion. “The necessary corrective actions will be taken as per the applicable laws,” she said.

To allegations that the City sold off private land, the City said that the section alongside Hangberg had been a privately-owned property for more than 10 years. Thus it had held that status prior to the Peace Accord.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said talks over the HiDA project land were ongoing between the City, SANParks and the national departments of Environmental Affairs, Public Works and Human Settlements.

“The request for transfer is linked to and triggers the de-proclamation process for parts of the Table Mountain National Park as well as for the Table Mountain World Heritage site.

“Each of these designations has its own process for de-proclamation,” Mr Herron said.

“The national departments recently conducted a site visit. The next meeting between the City, SANParks and the national government departments will be held in the coming weeks.”

Neither SANParks spokesperson Janine Raftopoulos nor Public Works spokesperson Lunga Mahlangu responded to the Sentinel’s queries.