The key to dignity

A beaming Pauline Hartzenberg, flanked by councillors Xoliswa Pakela-Mapasa and Grant Twigg is handed over the keys to her new apartment.

For 16 years, Henry Prins was a backyarder. But, two weeks ago, he moved into a new flat in Geneva Court, Scottsdene.

He is one of 195 recipients who symbolically received the keys to their new homes on Thursday November 3. The handover marked the completion of a long-term rental stock housing project that now includes 349 units, with another 153 having been allocated to beneficiaries at Gabriel Court, also in Scottsdene.

Mr Prins’s neighbours, Marie Petersen and Charmaine Erasmus, each waited 11 years to be allocated units in the recently finished complex, and the three said they were all extremely happy to have finally received “proper housing” .

Benedicta van Minnen, mayoral committee member for human settlements, spoke prior to the moving handover ceremony, in a marquee erected in the quadrangle around which the different blocks of flats are clustered.

She told the beneficiaries and dignitaries, “It is my responsibility to ensure that this place, like all others, comes about.

“It’s important to recognise the fact that all members of society need to have a sense of dignity in where they live. We need to recognise this factor as a community and take ownership of the places we live in.

“This project has been a long time in coming to fruition. But the determination to see it through to completion, despite the challenges, demonstrates the commitment of the City and its partners to ensuring that our beneficiaries have access to dignified homes and services.” She said each beneficiary’s circumstances had been carefully considered.

“We right-sized tenants to units which are more suitable to their family’s needs, for example, providing larger families with three-bedroom units.”

We have also installed ramps to ensure that the premises remain accessible for our tenants with special needs,” she said.

“Included in the decision-making process was the consideration of helping those most vulnerable in their communities.”

To strong applause, councillor Xoliswa Pakela-Mapasa said: “You are now called tenants, not backyarders. Take care of your homes; look after them and don’t litter.”

Maria Smit, 82, who was born in Carnarvon, in the Northern Cape, and was living in one room in Scottsdene before moving to the housing complex, said she was glad to have a two-bedroomed flat on the ground flour as she mostly moved around in a wheelchair.

Pauline Hartzenberg was also given the keys to a ground-floor flat because her husband recently suffered a stroke and it will be easier for him not to have to climb the stairs to one of the upper-level units.

The project forms part of the Scottsdene rental estate in Kraaifontein – an integrated housing development driven by the City and both provincial and national Human Settlements departments.

Ultimately, it’s set to provide 2 200 housing opportunities, including fully subsidised homes, City rental stock, and affordable market rental units.

The Scottsdene rental estate project recently scooped an award for the Best Social Housing Project at the Western Cape Govan Mbeki Awards hosted by the provincial Department of Human Settlements, where the City received recognition for some of its key projects completed over the last year (see adjacent story).