After being contacted once again by someone who wishes to help her domestic worker, I Googled buy or rent Masiphumelele and was hopeful when a number of estate agent names popped up. My hopes were short lived as they had nothing listed for Masiphumelele. I started phoning City officials and the NGO sector. This article is the result and while it does not provide simple solutions, it does shed light on the housing crisis, some possibilities and contact numbers.
The bottom line – land for low income housing is a highly contested issue in many of our rapidly expanding cities and Masiphumelele is no exception. Understanding the issues provides little comfort for people competing for space on overcrowded backyards or temporary sites. Masi was originally planned for about 20 000 people but an estimated 40 000 live there now. It seems that even with the support of an employer, options for buying or renting in Masi are way below the demand. Land that is earmarked for future low income housing has already been allocated to people on the City’s Housing Data Base (“Waiting List”) and there simply is too little private land.
Lutz van Djik, the person so fundamental to the success of the Amakhaya Ngoku housing project in Masi confirmed that there is no unallocated land available in Masiphumelele. Private individuals have to purchase land from existing home owners who leave or from their estates. Prices are exorbitant, with tiny plots rumoured to be going for over R100 000. In addition, too many desperate and misinformed people have been conned into paying for land without title deeds.
“If one wants to address the accommodation crises in Masi, one needs to address the land issue” writes Mzuvukile Nikelo the DA (PR) councillor for Masi. Ald. Purchase the chair of Sub-Council 19 explained that the surrounding land is either wetland or in private hands and is too expensive for subsidy housing. However, the City is looking at the possibility of Temporary Relocation Areas elsewhere in the City and there are indications that some people living in the wetlands are willing to move.
There is a tiny ray of light at the end of the tunnel for some of the 4000 families on `the list’ at Masi. 252 houses are scheduled to be built in Masiphumelele as part of Phase 4 Subsidised Housing Project, the maximum allowed in terms of the DEA&DP’s Environmental Authorization. However, the planning for Phase 4 has not been finalized and consideration is being given to double storey units to increase the number of families who can be accommodated on the land. The beneficiaries for the phase 4 development will be from the backyarders and wetlands in an agreed proportion, following community consultation and with preference to the elderly and sick but also taking into consideration the chronological order of arrival in Masi.
The start date is linked to the completion of the Amakhaya Ngoku Institutional Housing Project because the site for Phase 4 is currently a Temporary Relocation Area for the beneficiaries of Amakhaya Ngoku (AN) flats being built on the “School Site”. Unfortunately the AN’s project is gridlocked because illegal occupants are blocking the development of the next phase of AN. So yes, community politics as well as financial issues are delaying the Masiphumelele Phase 4 project.
So what options are there?
Rental Options in Ocean View: Phone the Rental Housing Office in Ocean View for rental housing options on 021 7831861.
Communicare’s Houses in Masi could be an option: call 021 421 6008 to enquire. (I could not get through)
GAP Housing: Gap Houses are built as a Private Sector / City partnership. The closest example of GAP Housing in the Far South Peninsula is at Steenberg next to Retreat Station. To qualify an employee needs to earn more than R3,500 but less than R7,000 per month. See the contact numbers for GAP housing below.
Get onto a waiting list. The only people who should be approached to get onto the “waiting list” are the dedicated officials at the closest Housing Office / Rental Office. In the case of Masiphumelele it is the Housing Office in Carina Road, Ocean View. Registration forms for the Housing Data Base (“Waiting List”) will be provided at the Office. (Applicants should take along their ID document.) “Getting on the waiting list” does not guarantee a housing opportunity. Only people qualifying in terms of the National Housing Subsidy criteria will get a house, e.g. income per single household head with dependants or per household couple must be less than R3,500 per month, prospective beneficiaries should not have owned a house before, etc. Also note that in terms of City policy housing allocation takes place in date order, i.e. those who registered first are considered for a housing opportunity first. Note that this information applies to state based subsidised housing.
Institutional Housing such as the AN school site units and People’s Housing Process housing (PHP Housing) such as Mellon’s have different parameters and processes.
People staying on the school site will know about the Amakhaya Ngoku office. Rumours and misinformation are rife, so Click here for the AN website and info about this housing project. It needs to be said that these flats are all allocated to existing families on the original school site. The fact that the next stage of the project has stalled because of disputes about the next group of beneficiaries is a clear indication of the extent of the competition for housing, as well as the complex issues surrounding who is prepared to pay for what. This complexity is illustrated by the eviction of 18 people from the AN flats this week, not because they were too poor to pay the R400 per month but because they had either sub-let to desperate foreigners at rates of R1200 – R1500 per month or because the felt that they were entitled to free accommodation in spite of choosing to move in and sign a lease agreement. See the detailed comment from Lutz van Dijk in the comments section below.
The number of people coming into the City who need to be housed is not in balance with affordable land and funds to build free and subsidized homes. This means that for many people Masiphumelele, owning or renting a solid and safe house will not be a reality for many years. While the housing backlog is huge and may not be resolved in the lifetimes of some people on the list, there are many organisations working in Masi who directly benefit the quality of life there. See the list and the incredible work they do at www.scenicsouth.(list is being updated). Please support these organisations wherever you can.
KimK September 2011
Letter by Lutz van Dijk in response to articles about over-crowding in Masi and the need for a second access road.
This is a response to a Milkwood Park resident’s letter “Masiphumelele is too full” of 13-9-2011. Masi is much too full!! Years ago about 20.000 residents lived there while now an estimated 40.000 residents are occupying the same space.
Sadly, your suggested solution that “the government must put a stop to the growth of Masiphumelele” will never work as it works nowhere in this country – and even nowhere in this world where poor people are desparately moving closer to big cities in the hope to escape extreme poverty.
One solution would be to better the options for work in the Eastern Cape where almost 100 percent of the Masi residents are from. We are all aware of the serious negligence the provincial government is responsible for in the Eastern Cape. But what can we do here – as neighbours of the community of Masiphumelele ?
First of all – there is no easy solution. But we can work on long term solutions which must be based on respect of human dignity and good neighbourhood. No one wants to see suffer poor people even more. Masi can’t be an overpopulated prison forever or we will not only face more disasters around fire and floods, but also more violence and crime which no one wants.
About ten years ago, research was done by a professional company into which option could be the best to allow a second access road. We, some NGO’s working in Masiphumelele, are in the process of accessing this research at present. To put your mind and those close to Houmoed Avenue at rest: This is NOT the best option, as indeed, the wetlands should be not compromised. It looks as if an access via Fish Eagle Park via an already existing but blocked road would have the smallest impact on nature and other residents.
The vast majority of Masi residents are decent people. They need our support to fight crime and to build a community with equal safety as all others in our valley. A second access road for Masi is is a contribution to it and will safe lives in future disasters.
Dr Lutz van Dijk,
Clovelly resident and founding co-director of the HOKISA Children’s Home in Masiphumelele