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Equal Spaces Project

Transitional Housing

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 Pickwick Transitional Housing in Cape Town


On Monday, 20 May 2019, the City of Cape Town moved 19 families from the Pine Road informal settlement in Woodstock, a rapidly gentrifying area, to the Pickwick transitional housing facility only a few blocks away. This facility, the first of its kind in the city, will allow people “to wait in decency”, according to Malusi Booi, the City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements.


It breaks with past practice of moving people to transitional housing as far as 30km from town. Depending on household income, the former Pine Road residents could eventually move to social housing or other state-subsidised housing. The 19 families were moved because the municipally owned land on Pine Road has been earmarked for social housing. “I’m excited to move to a better place,” said Abeeda Nelson who lived in the Pine Road settlement for 30 years.


The Pickwick transitional housing has two floors with private rooms and communal bathrooms on each floor. The facility also has communal kitchens and access control for the tenants’ safety. Janine Jaftus, who was allocated her own room while her two sons have a room across from hers, is pleased. I’m very happy. I like this place a lot”.


The Equal Spaces Project has worked on the Pickwick project with the City of Cape Town, the National Association of Social Housing Organizations and DAG, a local NGO for over two years. Our long-term TA, Lizette Zuniga, helped develop financial models for the conversion and redevelopment of the vacant portion of a boys’ home to re-house the Pine Road residents. These were based on people paying rents geared to their income with support from the City’s indigency grants to maintain operational sustainability. DAG developed a highly innovative model for working with the residents that built their confidence in the process. Short-term TA, Jim Duke, assisted DAG and the City with resident engagement and developing the management plan for the new facility. Lizette has also been working with the City and SOHCO, a local social housing group, on plans to develop the new Pine Road social housing.


This initiative demonstrates a strategic and innovative approach to using transitional housing to secure valuable inner city land for social housing in the context of precinct based urban regeneration. Lessons learned from this experience will be immediately applicable to other sites for social housing in Woodstock that are still occupied by informal settlements, and to the redevelopment of the Woodstock Hospital site. Critical to the whole exercise was helping build the capacity of very diverse stakeholders to work together – city officials and politicians, local NGOs and CBOs, professionals and residents.


There is no specific government housing program for this type of intervention and so it may not be replicable at scale. At a minimum, it can unblock specific sites and create opportunities for well-located affordable housing. It also remains to be seen if the families will successfully transition to social or other housing types that are acceptable and affordable to them.


(Also see: Daily Maverick Pickwick on which parts of the above are based.)