Marching for housing

Backyarders marched to the Dutch Reformed Church in Kuils River to ask for better housing deals on Thursday November 10.

Sarepta backyarders came out in numbers to march for housing on Thursday afternoon November 10.

The Kuils River Civic Association (KRCA) and its affiliate organisation, Commune Habitat, had registered 2 500 residents, “who are in need of housing”, KRCA chairman, Mathys Markgraaf, said. That tally, he added, had shown them the magnitude of the problem.

More than 1 000 residents showed up for the march. Chanting “We want houses,” they walked about a kilometre from Iris Street to the Dutch Reformed Church, where they held a meeting with the KRCA about a housing plan to accommodate backyarders.

Clarina Jacobs, who has been a backyarder for more than 20 years, said the march had given her hope that one day she would get a house.

Bernice Solomons, 54, claimed her landlord was a drug addict and he used the R1 000 rent she paid him each monthto feed his addiction.

Ms Solomons has been a backyarder in Sarepta since she was 12. “It’s time for change now,” she said.

Mr Markgraaf said they had earmarked land for development and were liaising with British investors to fund a project in which houses would be designed in line with each resident’s means.

“We have registered 2 500 people to access gap and social housing,” he said. The project will model a stokvel scheme because banks regard the “the missing middle” as “unbankable”, Mr Markgraaf said.

The “missing middle” refers to residents who do not qualify for social housing as they earn more than R3 500 per month, but also cannot afford a bond.
Mr Markgraaf admitted some residents had their doubts about the project, but he said that next week they would get a chance to meet the investors, who would fly down to inspect pockets of land in Sarepta.

Akhona Siswana, a project officer at Development Action Group (DAG), a registered NGO, said he was stunned by the attendance at the march, which had shown the will of the people.
Mr Siswana said DAG only built houses on “well-located areas” near economic hubs to keep residents’ travel costs down, because the City’s transport system was in a shambles.
Most of the residents raised their hands when Boyisile Mafilika, also a project officer at DAG, asked how many of them had been registered on the housing list.
The residents gasped when he told them the City’s human settlements directorate only considered beneficiaries who had been on the list for more than 10 years.

Mr Markgraaf said the KRCA had met with both the provincial Department of Human Settlements and the City’s directorate of human settlements to discuss housing plans for the area.
Bruce Oom, spokesman for the provincial Department of Human Settlements, confirmed that a meeting had been held where “some aesthetic issues” about the project, dubbed Highbury Phase 3, were discussed. The City did not respond to questions by the time this edition went to print.