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Residents oppose Conradie Hospital housing plan

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The site, which has stood empty for 16 years, is a battleground over the future of state subsidised housing in Cape Town

Graphic of Conradie Hospital development
Artist’s impression of the future Old Conradie Hospital Development in Pinelands. Source: Western Cape Government
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The old Conradie Hospital site has been dormant since 2002. Heralded by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, the plan for the site includes state subsidised housing (often called social housing). But the plan is facing opposition, including a court challenge from three neighbouring residents’ associations.

Two years ago the provincial departments of Transport and Public Works and Human Settlements stated, “We plan to be breaking ground on this exciting new development by early 2018.”

According to a notice published in the Western Cape Government Gazette on 26 October, ConCor Construction offered to buy the Conradie site from the province for just over R200 million. This will be a partnership called the Better Living Model. It will include affordable housing units for families earning R1,500 to R20,000 per month.

The public participation process ends on Thursday (22 November). The province can only then proceed to make a final decision on the disposal of the land. Siphesihle Dube, spokesperson for MEC of Transport and Public Works Donald Grant, said, “After the public participation process, the provincial cabinet will consider all public comments received which will inform their decision as to whether to resile from the decision to sell the property, or continue with it.”

According to the Western Cape government’s website, the development will include 3,602 homes, 10,000m² of retail space, and 14,500m² of commercial space. The plan also includes the construction of schools, a commercial centre, and park spaces.

The website says 49% of the residential development will be subsidised housing. 51% of the units will be allocated for market price paying renters.

Premier Helen Zille referred positively to the project in her 2016 State of the Province Address. She said the cabinet signed off on this “mixed-use, mixed-income, mixed tenure, residentially-led development” in December 2015, and it was an attempt to reverse the legacy of apartheid planning in the province.

Zille’s spokesperson Ewald Botha told GroundUp: “We remain confident that the Conradie Better Living Model could make a major contribution towards providing people with a place where they can live and work and attend schools, within a connected, safe and socially inclusive environment and Premier Zille is looking forward to considering all comments received with the Provincial Cabinet. At present she cannot speculate about decisions that will be informed by the ongoing public participation process.”

Nick Budlender, a researcher at housing activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi, told GroundUp: “This is the province’s big flagship project.” He said the province is going to use the Conradie site as an example model for new social housing developments in the Western Cape.

Community objections

But community members in areas surrounding Conradie raised concerns about the project during the public participation process. Councillor Brian Watkyns, who represents Pinelands (Ward 53), told GroundUp that one of the community’s concerns was that the height of a proposed eight-storey building would be detrimental to the surrounding area.

The affected communities of Pinelands, Thornton, and Kensington have decided to take their objections to the Western Cape High Court. Vice-chair of the Pinelands Ratepayers and Residents Association, Riad Davids, said the government failed to consider the community’s concerns about the project. “Instead of the City meeting and speaking to us, we’ve got to go to court,” he said.

Davids said, “We called for 2,500 units instead of 3,600, for four storeys instead of eight, to make the units bigger, provide more parking, and make more recreational space.” Davids said public participation has been going on for two years, but “the province never changed one iota of the project”.

He said the Conradie project would be “lumping poor people [together] and putting them in a high density environment”.

“We have a right to give input, as neighbours. And we’re definitely not saying ‘no’ to the development,” Davids said.

Budlender said a community’s objection was very common when it came to social housing projects. “It’s not surprising that the ratepayers’ associations are combining together to object now in the disposal stage,” he said. However, he added that for an objection to have an effect in the site disposal, it needs to be based in law. Budlender is uncertain whether the issues raised by the community are enough to delay or scupper the project.

ConCor development manager Mark Schonrock said, “We haven’t had any contact with them [the provincial government]. We don’t know what’s going on during this procedural period.”

Schonrock said he was not aware of the residents’ associations taking their objections to court. “It’s just a pity that this is going to delay the project,” he said.

© 2018 GroundUp.
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TOPICS:  Housing Social Housing Series
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Letters

Dear Editor

I was born and raised in the townships. I spend most of my life fighting get out of the township. Both myself and my husband studied, work hard and made many sacrifices to afford our dream home, a home which we found here in Thornton.

Each month a huge chunk of our income is spend on servicing our bond, rates and taxes. Now the City says that it is just for someone to pay a fraction of what i have to spend each month to live here. This is on the grounds that they are poor. We are most certainly not rich nor has anyone given us anything. We worked hard for what we have and because we worked hard we value what we have.

If the City insist on going ahead with this social experiment then I must be allowed pay the same amount in rates and taxes as these people, as we will be "enjoying" the same services.

Another concern I have is that, low cost housing comes with huge social problems. I know this from experience.
What will happen if these people are unhappy with their housing units and start protesting and burning everything in site? As that kind of behaviour is the norm with people who hardly pay for services.

How is this going to impact Old Mutual as a business when their staff can not get to work when there are ongoing protest? Protest are a certainty with these types of situations.

How will the rest of us get to work, as our roads are already under severe pressure as things stand currently? Bringing all these families here with no room to expand our roads are a recipe for disaster.

Please, please stop this madness, stop this culture of just giving people things without them having worked for it. We are creating a society dependent on the state for everything. That is not what is needed in a young democracy such as ours.