Residents ponder IY housing crisis

It was a packed house at the Hout Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association Annual General Meeting last week.

Concerns over the four temporary relocation areas (TRAs) to house victims of last month’s Imizamo Yethu fire as well as questions over the proposed community day care centre on the Hout Bay Common, dominated the discourse at the 20th annual general meeting of the Hout Bay Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association last week.

The meeting at the Hout Bay library on Wednesday April 12 took place hours after Mayor Patricia de Lille announced the four TRAs, namely the Hout Bay Sports Complex where 3m by 3m shacks are being erected; Disa Site 2 where 80 shacks will be built; the Hughenden Estate site where about 300 families will be accommodated; and the Penzance site, although the mayor said the earthworks necessary to accommodate families here were yet to be installed.

Consequently, the latter two sites would only be used at a later stage “if required” (“IY now disaster area”, Sentinel, April 13).

However, there was concern among residents at the meeting that the sites would not be temporary at all, and would simply become a permanent part of Imizamo Yethu.

“The fact that the mayor stated Hughenden presents a big problem. Our property prices will drop. This is a step too far for us, and we will take legal action to have this statement removed,” one man said.

One of the main points of contention is that in 2004, an interdict prevented the City from building housing on land it had bought in Imizamo Yethu. Three years later, the City revealed it would have to relocate 2300 households within 18 months or a permanent housing solution could not be found. Some audience members felt that nothing had come of this, with the result that the same Imizamo Yethu residents who were supposed to have been relocated were now being relocated to the TRAs.

“We understand the City needs TRAs (in the wake of the disaster), but they should find sites that won’t devalue our properties. We also fear that the Hout Bay Sports Field will become a slum,” said Len Swimmer, chairperson of the Hout Bay Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association.

“Ultimately, the real losers will be the people of Imizamo Yethu. It was always our goal to make IY a green suburb of Hout Bay.”

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas, who attended the meeting along with Sub-council 16 chairperson Matthew Kempthorne, said fire victims being housed in the tents at the sports fields could not be expected to stay there any longer. “In deciding on the TRAs, we had to do the dreadful arithmetic. I would advise people to go see for yourselves how people are living on the tents. These steps have been taken to improve the dignity of the people,” he said.

Mr Quintas stressed that as ward councillor, he was committed to seeing people only being housed in the TRAs on a temporary basis. Mr Swimmer also put it to the councillors that he needed a guarantee that people would be removed off the existing water pipeline and into the areas falling under the City’s super-block areas.

“This pipeline is Hout Bay’s only water supply. If this pipe is damaged, not only will the whole of IY be flooded, but all Hout Bay’s water supply will be contaminated.”

He added the road going up from Hughenden to Dontse Yakhe should only be accessed by emergency and official vehicles, and not by ordinary members of the public. “The Hughenden gate should be closed at all times.”

Mr Kempthorne subsequently guaranteed that the pipeline would be secured.

“I can also assure you that we will rehabilitate the sports field once the super-blocking has taken place,” he said.

Not everyone was convinced, however. One audience member said the only solution was to begin a process of “decanting” people out of Imizamo Yethu.

“To build more houses here, you are condemning people to poverty for the rest of their lives. We (Hout Bay) are not on a transport or business node – there are no jobs here,” the resident said.

Mr Swimmer said in 2007, then mayor Helen Zille had set up a year-long forum which included representatives from all the people of Hout Bay where they could voice their ideas, and the “foremost principle” which was agreed to was that people would need to be relocated out of Hout Bay. “Constantia is perfect for these purposes. It has schools, a clinic and shopping centres, and there are job opportunities. If Patricia de Lille is really serious about changing apartheid-style planning, then Constantia is the perfect place to do so.”

Mr Kempthorne said it was the City’s vision to have people “decanting” on a voluntary basis, a view that was also shared by Clifford Nogwavu, chairperson of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) for Imizamo Yethu.

“Before we develop IY, let’s offer people the chance to relocate. We agree with reblocking, but only if we are putting people in proper homes,” Mr Nogwavu said. Earlier, Julia Gane, one of the drivers of the proposed United Park of Hout Bay on the Hout Bay Common, gave a presentation on the project.

With the provincial government having made arguments to place the new community day care centre on the common, residents in favour of the United Park are worried that this development will fall by the wayside.

Ms Gane detailed improvements that already have been made to the park, including the children’s play area, and plans for the wheel play area and exercise precinct.

It was felt that with disasters such as the fires continuing to plague Imizamo Yethu, the community day care centre would be better suited next to the fire station, “right on IY’s doorstep”.

Arguments were also put forward that the taxi fare from Hangberg to the common would be the same as that from Hangberg to Imizamo Yethu. This would alleviate any concerns Hangberg residents might have about cost.