Press Release 13 June 2023
On behalf of a Woodstock family, Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre has launched a constitutional challenge* to the issuing of emergency housing kits by the City of Cape Town. The family face eviction from their home of 25 years by the Woodstock Hub (Pty) Ltd, who seeks to develop the building.
[*Please note as per our clients request, they wish to remain anonymous]
Since 1998, the family’s deceased father had been the caretaker of the building where he oversaw maintenance and security. In exchange for his work, he did not receive a salary but was granted permission to live on the property with his family by the previous owners. In 2018, the building was sold for R35 million to the Woodstock Hub, who has repeatedly tried to force the family out, using security guards and local gangsters to intimate them.
What the City of Cape Town offers to people who may be rendered homeless by an eviction
Because all the family members have low incomes and have no other housing alternatives, the City is constitutionally obliged to provide emergency accommodation in terms of the Emergency Housing Programme (EHP). The City is notoriously known for creating relocation camps in places like Wolwerivier, Blikkiesdorp and Kampies for evictees. The City has however revealed that all emergency accommodation is full and the only emergency support they can offer is building material whereby the family has to find a willing landowner who will allow them to construct a shelter.
According to Dr Jonty Cogger, attorney for the Applicants:
We find the notion that evictees should fend for themselves in an emergency by finding alternative private accommodation the very antithesis of the state’s housing obligations. The essence of the state’s role in eviction crises is to step in and prevent homelessness. The fact that the City has shifted the onus back onto evictees truly shows that it is out of touch with the housing crisis and the impact of gentrification on the working poor.
Vacant Public Buildings
In the application, the family is asking the court to declare the policy of issuing emergency housing materials without access to land unconstitutional and direct the City, in collaboration with national and provincial governments, to investigate using vacant publicly owned buildings and land for emergency housing. These vacant buildings include:
- Alfred Street Complex, Green Point – owned by Provincial Government
- Rocklands Villas, in Sea Point – owned by the Housing Development Agency
- Robbie Nurock, Gardens – owned by Provincial Government
- Customs House, Foreshore – owned by National Government
- James Street, Salt River – owned by City of Cape Town
- Upper Canterbury Road, Gardens – owned by Provincial Government
Vacant Public Land
In addition to these 6 vacant buildings, the Applicants are also asking the City to investigate using public land within 10km of Woodstock for emergency housing. There is a myth that there is a shortage of land that can be used to address the housing crisis. The evidence put forward in this application shows that the state has resources that could be used to accommodate the poor but the City chooses to locate evictees far away from where they are evicted.
According to Buhle Booi, political organiser at NU:
Shifting the burden of alternative accommodation back onto evictees perpetuates the notion that the state does not have land to accommodate the poor. Through our research we have ascertained that the state has a vast property portfolio of vacant and underutilised land. Land ultimately should be for the people – it should be utilised for its social value.