Corruption of Cape Town’s housing waiting list being investigated

Leaders of informal settlements say that most informal settlements in Cape Town do not have adequate services. Archive photo by Lilita Gcwabe

The Housing Assembly is taking on a campaign for an alternative and public housing waiting list.

Housing Assembly, a social movement that seeks to address housing inequality across South Africa, has launched a campaign looking into the housing waiting list. The organisation has received mounting calls from citizens for assistance.

Having surveyed a thousand residents of poor communities mainly in Cape Town, the organisation claims that the beneficiaries of houses could not have been sourced from the waiting list, as citizens have been on the housing list since 1997.

“We are on the ground, because we see that our communities have been left behind. In Manenberg, one of our pilot communities, there are people who have been on the waiting list since 1997 even though there have been three [housing] developments,” said Kashiefa Achmat, chairperson of Housing Assembly.

The City of Cape Town (CoCT) has maintained that housing allocations are done in the order of the housing waiting list. “Beneficiaries of all City housing projects are allocated in accordance with the City’s Allocation Policy and Housing Needs Register. The City considers housing opportunities on a first-come, first-served basis, and takes age and special needs into consideration,” reads the email from the CoCT.

The Housing Assembly doubts this explanation as there are many beneficiaries still awaiting houses. The organisation has asked to see the waiting list, but were denied for reasons of confidentiality and the POPI Act.

“We have seen the corruption within these developments. LRC [Legal Resources Centre] is currently tackling the issue with the city,” added Achmat. Elitsha reached out to the LRC but they could not comment yet as they are still doing their due diligence to investigate.

If housing was being provided for citizens according to the waiting list, people who registered between 1985 and 2006 should be in houses, according to Kenneth Matlawe, political education organiser at Housing Assembly. However, according to surveys done by Housing Assembly, there are people from as early as 1997 who still do not have houses and people who were registered much later live in houses. “I have been on the housing waiting list since 1999. I registered again in 2007, now it’s been almost sixteen years since I re-registered,” said Ayisha Abrahams (59) an unemployed woman from Manenberg.

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Abrahams has been to the CoCT’s offices many times only to be told to throw away her red book and to wait for the city to contact her. “It would be a dream come true to get a house. I live in my sister’s backyard with my daughter, two grandchildren and her husband,” said Abrahams. “The house is too tiny for us as I am in a wheelchair and it is not safe as my sister’s child is on drugs and usually steals from us,” she added.

The Housing Assembly says that they have discovered that the City of Cape Town is bumping some people up the housing waiting list. Photo by Asive Mabula

Many communities, outside of the Western Cape, are reaching out to the Housing Assembly for assistance as well, thus showing that this is a national problem. “There is no specific time-frame which residents must wait before they may be allocated a housing opportunity as it depends on the availability of housing opportunities and whether applicants qualify when the opportunities do become available,” said the city.

They reiterated that housing projects have different dynamics in terms of size, the number of applicants who may qualify and the application date range for that project. “Every housing project has a cut-off date. However, in the case of Manenberg, the cut off was 2006 but there are people who registered as early as 1997 that still have not got houses,” said Matlawe.

The Housing Assembly said that since embarking on this campaign, it has discovered deeper problems with the allocation of houses and the housing waiting list as a whole. “The argument of the City of Cape Town and the national government has been that people are jumping the list, but we have found out that they are in fact the ones doing that,” said Matlawe.

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The movement for a more efficient housing waiting list has been started, as the Housing Assembly continues to do surveys in townships. “The City remains committed to providing homes to residents in well-located areas close to public transport, jobs, government services and public amenities. It is important to note that there is a shortage of affordable housing in South Africa, the Western Cape and Cape Town,” added the city.

Activists from Reclaim the City, credited by some in the housing sector as helping to re-ignite the City of Cape Town’s commitment to social housing. Archive photo: Mia Arderne/GroundUp

Ndifuna Ukwazi, an activist organisation and law centre that advocates for access to well-located land and affordable housing, found that property developers are interested to include affordable housing in their projects. “The City of Cape Town has been arguing that it is not possible or desirable for private developers to include some affordable housing in their developments,” said Nick Budlender, a researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi.

There is currently no policy that states how private developers can incorporate affordable housing in their developments, and even without a policy, Ndifuna Ukwazi found that there are private developers that are interested. “Even without a policy, we found thirteen developers who were interested in including affordable houses in their developments. This would have accounted for 600 affordable homes,” added Budlender.

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