Emergency housing in Wolwerivier for Bromwell families – City of Cape Town

Councillor says seven families were offered temporary emergency accommodation in compliance with the Constitution

City offers Bromwell families emergency housing in Wolwerivier 

31 January 2017

The City has certain key obligations in realising our residents’ right of access to adequate housing. We also have key constraints.    

We must execute a housing programme in accordance with the national Housing Code which provides for State intervention for those households with an income below R3 500 per month and for those households living in sub-optimal circumstances and who have income of between R3 500 and R15 000 per month.  

This means we are prevented from providing a State housing opportunity to any person who does not meet the qualification criteria unless they are in an emergency situation which has created an exceptional housing need. The emergency housing programme is intended to benefit all affected persons who are not able to address their emergency from their own resources or from other resources – such as from other State housing programmes.

Thus, the City may only provide emergency housing to those Bromwell residents who are not able to address their emergency situation through other State housing programmes or through their own resources.

Seven of the 13 households who live, or lived, in the Bromwell Street properties are currently unable to address their housing emergency through their own or through other resources and the City has offered them emergency housing.

The seven families, comprising 16 adults and 11 children, were offered temporary emergency accommodation in compliance with the Constitution, the National Housing Code, and the City’s housing policies.

As such, none of the households who are still residing in the houses along Bromwell Street will be homeless on account of the eviction order that was granted to the Woodstock Hub in August last year. This is because the City has offered temporary emergency accommodation to every household that has not obtained alternative housing, and we have done so irrespective of the families’ income levels or personal circumstances.

It is important to note the following: three of the households to whom we have offered emergency accommodation have employed persons. Given their income levels, some of these households would not qualify for free housing which is limited to those who earn less than R3 500 per month.

We have indicated as such in our affidavits in the course of last year and in our oral arguments before the Western Cape High Court this morning, 31 January 2017, in what is referred to as the Bromwell case.

Over the past five months the City has assessed the individual circumstances of the 13 households who at the time resided along Bromwell Street. We have assisted the households in applying for social housing, and GAP/FLISP housing opportunities. We have also assisted the families in putting their names on the City’s housing database or in updating their details.

Social housing comprises affordable rental units for those with income levels of between R1 500 and R7 500; GAP housing is aimed at people who earn in excess of R6 000 and where a beneficiary obtains ownership of the property subject to payment of the purchase price in monthly instalments; and Finance Linked Individual Subsidy (FLISP) is available to households that earn between R3 500 and R15 000 per month. Qualifying individuals can obtain a bond for purchasing a property and they are responsible for repaying the bond on the purchase price where repayments are determined according to income.

The City has gone to great lengths to assist the affected residents in applying for subsidised State housing, social housing and GAP and FLISP housing opportunities. We have complied with all of the requirements as set by the Constitution, the Housing Code and our housing policies.

To date, three families have found alternative accommodation elsewhere. Two of these families were offered social housing, but refused the offer. The one family has already vacated the house in Bromwell Street and the other family will do so shortly. The third family vacated the house in Bromwell Street last year already.

The current situation is as follows:

- Four families were offered social housing. Of these four families, two families refused the offer (as mentioned above) and have vacated the houses along Bromwell Street or are in the process of vacating.

One family consisting of one adult and one child qualifies for social housing and we have requested that the court to allow the family to stay on at their current residence in Bromwell Street until their housing unit becomes available; or, if it is not available for a lengthy period, the City will offer them temporary emergency accommodation.

One family comprising of one adult and one child is in the process of moving into a social housing unit

- Seven households – 16 adults and 11 children – are currently in need of temporary emergency accommodation which the City has offered to provide in Wolwerivier. One of these families comprising of three adults and three children has an income in excess of the threshold for subsidised state housing and the City is still hopeful that they will be able to procure alternative accommodation for themselves shortly. Another family has put in an offer to buy a private property and is awaiting the owner’s decision on their offer to purchase

The Bromwell families have applied for a court order declaring that the City is under a constitutional duty to provide them and their dependents with temporary emergency accommodation as near as possible to Bromwell Street; and to do so within three months.

The City is opposing the application.

We cannot provide the residents with emergency accommodation any closer than Wolwerivier because we do not have any emergency housing developments available within the city centre. We have not embarked on any such developments due to:

the scarcity of land and the competing demands on such land

the fact that the costs in developing an emergency housing settlement in the city are at least three-fold what they would be in areas further afield

We have argued in court that the Constitution does not guarantee a person the right to housing at government expense at the location of their choice as locality is determined by a number of factors, including the availability of land, as is explained above.

As such, the City has argued that the Bromwell residents are not entitled to temporary emergency housing at a location of their choice – that being in Salt River or Woodstock. We have stated in court that the City does not have temporary emergency housing available in these areas for this purpose.

As I have indicated, six of the families would not qualify for emergency housing assistance in terms of the National Housing Code, even if we did have emergency housing available within the area of their choice.

The City has, in our engagements with the Bromwell families and in court today, indicated that we can provide the seven households with temporary emergency accommodation in Wolwerivier – a temporary accommodation area developed by the City in compliance with the Housing Code.

The emergency housing at Wolwerivier meets the threshold for emergency housing in that:

- Plumbing, water and electricity infrastructure have been completed

- Gravel roads are provided within the site

- Beneficiaries are provided with a 26,5 m² emergency housing structure, fitted with an internal toilet and wash basin

- The entire development will be fenced with a concrete palisade fence

- Space is reserved within the development for a crèche or pre-primary education facilities and a community facility

The City was not involved in the private sale of the houses along Bromwell Street to the Woodstock Hub in October 2013. Neither were we involved in the litigation pertaining to the eviction of the people residing in these houses.

The City became involved in September 2016, as soon as we became aware of the plight of these families. This intervention was spontaneous and out of our concern not to see families being homeless. Since then we have played an active role in assisting the families within our means and in compliance with the applicable legislation and policies. We determined which housing opportunities were available to them and assisted the families in applying for these. As stated above, through our assistance, four of the affected families were offered social housing units.

In our view there ought to be parity and fairness in the provision of housing assistance to those who are in need.

The Bromwell families argue that they should be given a preferential right to relocate to a location as near as possible to Bromwell Street despite the fact that some of them have not applied for permanent subsidised State housing until recently and some of them do not qualify for state assistance. They also insist on being relocated to land close to Bromwell Street, despite the constraints mentioned above.  

We cannot support an unfair, haphazard and discriminatory approach as all housing, including emergency accommodation, is developed for all who may require it throughout the city. If persons are allowed a location of their choice, those who are patiently awaiting their turn will be prejudiced and the City could not then budget for or plan any housing opportunities in an orderly manner.

We are striving to maintain a reasonable balance between available resources and the overall demands on those resources, not just by the people under consideration (in this case the Bromwell families), but the population in general, i.e. the estimated 652 000 households in Cape Town who will need some support from the City in respect of housing between now and 2032. We argued in court that the resources allocated for the provision of emergency housing should not impede the City’s ability to progressively provide permanent housing to those in need and who qualify for these opportunities.

We went above and beyond in assisting the Bromwell families. We initiated this assistance long before the current court application was brought and such application was not necessary as the City was engaging with the residents on the housing opportunities available to them.

The City has social housing developments planned for Salt River and Woodstock at six different locations. These opportunities are intended for residents with income levels of between R1 500 and R7 500, depending on the particular development.

The exact number of housing opportunities to be provided at each site will be known once the planning processes have been concluded, save to say that the current estimate is 3 000.

Residents, inclusive of the seven households whom we will provide with temporary emergency accommodation in Wolwerivier, will be able to apply for these opportunities once construction has commenced within the next 18 months.

Issued by Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member: Transport and Urban Development Authority, City of Cape Town, 31 January 2017