When temporary housing isn’t temporary

Ashleigh Furlong
The rows of houses in Bosasa. Photo by Ashleigh Furlong
Ashleigh Furlong

“They promised us that we would stay for a short period of time. They didn’t keep their promise,” says Amelia Nono, who came to Intersite, a temporary relocation area (TRA) in Langa, nine years ago.

She and her family had been living in Joe Slovo’s community hall for six months prior to moving to Intersite. Nono says they moved to Intersite, one of the oldest TRAs in the country, because it was a “better place” than the hall.

Nono says that her family is unable to be relocated to an RDP house. “My husband has got a problem. They say he has got high wages. He is the only person who is working [in a household of six],” says Nono. She says her family have been told that they will be given an open space to build their own house, but that this will only happen in 2018.

Amelia Nono with her child in Intersite TRA.JPG
Amelia Nono with her child in Intersite TRA. Photo by Ashleigh Furlong.

Some 20 minutes away from Intersite TRA lies Delft, which is home to numerous TRAs, including the infamous Blikkiesdorp. Blikkiesdorp has been around for seven years already and could be present for another five to seven years. The rows of corrugated iron structures have sparked much criticism. Many other TRAs have a striking resemblance to Blikkiesdorp, although they are often constructed using more attractive and weather resistant materials than the corrugated iron used in Blikkiesdorp.

Just around the corner from Blikkiesdorp is Delft TRA 5, where the dusty streets and rows of houses look remarkably similar to Blikkiesdorp. A resident of TRA 5 said that she had been there since 2011 and that she was not sure when she and her family would be moved. Another resident, Siseko Ncukana-Ncukana, said that he had just moved into TRA 5 from Tsunami, another TRA in Delft. He says that he is in the process of getting a permanent house but isn’t sure when this will be.

The situation is much the same down the road in Delft TRA 6, although this newer TRA has not had the chance to develop the weathered look of TRA 5. Yanga Nikelo has been in TRA 6 for two years, after she was moved from Tsunami. She has been promised permanent housing but is not sure when this promise will be fulfilled.

Yanga Nikelo washing up in TRA 6.JPG
Yanga Nikelo. Photo by Ashleigh Furlong.

If you travel a short distance down the N2 away from Delft and take the next exit you will find yourself in Blue Downs, which is home to Bosasa TRA. Bettie Ntshintshi lives here with Edward Tatiya in what is their child’s house. They have stayed in Bosasa for more than five years after living as backyarders in Mfuleni.

“They [the City] say they are going to move people. I don’t know when they are going to make a plan, because this is temporary housing,” said Tatiya, “They are talking about maybe sometime moving half of the people to houses, but they talk about it and they don’t do anything.”

“They [the City] just promise. They talk, talk, talk,” he says.

Bettie Ntshintshi and Edward Tatiya in their child's home, where they stay, in Bosasa.JPG
Bettie Ntshintshi and Edward Tatiya in their child’s home, where they stay, in Bosasa. Photo by Ashleigh Furlong.

Ashley Maso has also stayed in Bosasa for five years. “They [the City] promised us,” says Maso of plans to move. “Probably next year but I’m not sure when. When they put us here they promised us we are not going to stay here for a long time, just for a short period of time, but we are here for five years now.”

In a response by email, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements Benedicta van Minnen stated that unrest and vandalism by “certain members of the community” had “forced” the City to halt delivery of houses that would have gone to Bosasa TRA residents. “The resources which were allocated to this community will be reallocated to communities who have not sowed destruction and vandalised infrastructure to the extreme levels seen here. Resources will be allocated to communities who have not hampered service delivery and who want to work with the City to see development in their areas.”

TRAs are areas that have been developed as a response to a need for emergency housing, such as a fire or flooding. Other events such as upgrades and evictions also contribute to the need for TRAs. There are numerous TRAs around the country but their numbers are difficult to accurately determine due to new ones being developed and old ones dismantled as the need arises.

TRAs form part of the national government’s emergency housing programme and are subject to the national standards for service provision, but according to the Housing Development Agency’s Guidelines to Emergency Housing this is not always realised. TRA houses are also smaller (24m^2) than typical RDP houses (30m^2), do not have individual plots or titles and have a lower level of services than formal housing programmes.

In Cape Town, there are several parties involved in the implementation of TRAs: the City of Cape Town, the Provincial Department of Human Settlements, the Housing Development Agency (HDA) and private companies. Some TRAs such as Intersite, as well as Delft TRA 5 and 6, are managed by the Western Cape Government, while others such as Blikkiesdorp and Bosasa are managed by the City. Sometimes multiple parties work together on TRAs.

In the HDA’s guidelines, temporary relocation areas are clearly identified as just that: temporary. They are meant to be used when the site of the emergency, whether that be land or a building, is not currently habitable and “people must be moved for a short period to a relocation area or permanently to a resettlement area”.

The guidelines explain that TRAs are often established instead of permanent settlements when the land is only able to be leased and not purchased, or the land is being used without payment to the owner. “Often, the area for relocation is not suitable for permanent resettlement,” reads the HDA’s document. Despite this, some residents have been staying in TRAs for nearly ten years.

“There is no pre-determined maximum time [that residents stay in TRAs] but it is the responsibility of the authority responsible for the TRA to limit the duration,” says Nathan Adriaanse, who is the communications director in the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements. “It is not the ideal situation to have people living in TRAs indefinitely but it is not always possible to accurately pre-determine the duration of people’s stay in a TRA when some circumstances that required the TRA in the first instance change.”

Delft TRA 6.JPG
Delft TRA 6. Photo by Ashleigh Furlong.

The head of advocacy at the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) Alison Tilley, who works with the residents of Blikkiesdorp, said that the City should be engaging with Blikkiesdorp residents about when and where they will be moved. “But that has not been happening, according to community members,” she says.

When asked about how regularly communication occurred between residents and the party responsible for the TRA, Adriaanse replied that the ideal situation is for there to be regular interaction but that “the frequency of communication between the parties can vary from case to case”.

As for people such as Nono’s husband who do not qualify for a housing subsidy, Adriaanse says that before a TRA has reached its “design lifespan” other accommodation options must be made available to non-qualifiers. It’s not clear to GroundUp what is meant by this. “Possible options could include rental accommodation or access to a serviced site,” says Adriaanse.

Currently there appears to be no available “design lifespan” for Intersite where Nono stays or for any of the other TRAs. All residents know is that sometime in the future they will be moved, but to where or when is uncertain.

This article was updated after publication with comment from the City of Cape Town.

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TOPICS:  Government Housing Human Rights

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