Housing plans for Happy Valley

Happy Valley residents want answers regarding their future on erf 1117 which is currently being considered for a housing development.

The Happy Valley site, opposite Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital and home to about 20 families living in shacks, is being considered for low-cost housing development.

Last year, Ward 23 councillor Nora Grose told Tabletalk that the City knew of no plans to build any low-cost housing on the Happy Valley site, also known as Erf 1117 (“Happy Valley residents seek answers”, Tabletalk, August 31, 2016), but soon that might no longer be the case because at the Sub-council 3 meeting late last month, Ward 113 councillor Dr Joy McCarthy noted the site was being transferred to the Housing Development Agency (HDA) for mixed housing. The HDA is an agency of the Department of Human Settlements.

HDA spokeswoman Zingaphi Matanzima confirmed the agency was assessing Erf 1117 to determine “the desirability and sustainability of any potential development, if any”.

But the process was not over and at this stage “no development concept nor development plans have been considered, recommended nor approved by the HDA”.

There would be “extensive public participation and consultation” if the agency decided the land was suitable for development.

Francina Bodkin has been living at Happy Valley for 12 years and said she knew nothing about the site being assessed for a possible housing development.

“We don’t know anything about this. We get told so many stories we don’t know what to believe. But we don’t want to move. We want to stay here. Where will they put us?” said Ms Bodkin.

Ms Grose also had “no knowledge” of the HDA’s interest in the site.

Colleen Petersen, who runs the non-profit organisation TLC, said she was concerned about where Happy Valley residents would go if the site was developed.

“These people may be homeless but they are human beings too. Their lives are here. Some of the children attend surrounding schools and others have jobs here. They can’t just be uprooted like that,” said Ms Petersen.

In 2015 the City swore to Blouberg residents that there were no plans for low-cost housing for Erf 1117 (“Massive turn-out at Happy Valley Q&A”, Tabletalk, 2015).

This after a document revealing plans for low-cost housing for the site surfaced on social media causing panic among residents who demanded answers at a public meeting with then mayoral committee member for human settlements, Benedicta van Minnen, and several other City officials.

The Western Cape government document, dated November 27 2013 and labelled “Informal Settlement Status presentation”, stated that 32 sites had been identified as being suitable for housing development, and Erf 1117 was one of them.

Jens Kuhn, manager for land and planning in the City’s human settlements directorate, responded to the document at the time, saying that the draft was only drawn up according to what could be done on the land.

“We have no intention to put low-cost housing there. Looking from a commercial point of view, it makes no sense,” said Mr Kuhn at the time.