One of the properties owned by the Garden Route District Municipality in Omega Street, next to the municipality’s head office in George.
- The Freedom Front Plus’ deputy mayor of the Garden Route District Municipality, Gert van Niekerk, has come under fire after refusing to support the development of social housing in George central.
- Opposition parties have accused Van Niekerk and the George mayor of working together to “prop up the legacy of the apartheid-era Group Areas Act in George”.
- The DA and FF+ have coalition agreements in the George and Garden Route District municipalities.
The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) has dismissed claims of racism over its refusal to support the proposed development of social housing in George in the Western Cape, saying it is concerned that property values in the area could drop.
It came after the GOOD party alleged that Garden Route District Municipality Deputy Mayor Gert van Niekerk and the mayor of George were working together to “prop up the legacy of the apartheid-era Group Areas Act in George”.
Van Niekerk, a member of the FF+, has dismissed the allegations.
“I have pleaded with the George council to make the land called Crocodile Farm available for social housing, and I have said that the whole community should benefit from this. We should not reserve the land for a certain community,” he said.
The George Municipality has by resolution identified strategically positioned, valuable land which it owns, such as the highly sought-after Crocodile Farm site, as well as other sites throughout the city which are suited for social housing.
According to the George Municipality, its focus for social housing is on bringing people into the city, densifying to ensure less infrastructure costs, making sure they are on transport corridors, and easy walking access to all amenities.
Van Niekerk said he was concerned about a Constitutional Court ruling that the development of such a project might decrease the value of existing properties in that area.
“When you plan a development like this, the property value of homes in the surrounding areas decreases. It is not permissible because these homeowners also have rights,” he said.
On Monday, the Garden Route District Municipality hosted an event at the municipality’s fire station in George to introduce its Social Housing Delivery Partnership.
Stakeholders conducted a walkabout to view various proposed sites earmarked for possible affordable housing.
The event was attended by Western Cape Human Settlements and Infrastructure MEC Tertuis Simmers as well as mayors and councillors from the Garden Route district.
The DA and FF+ are in coalition in both the George and Garden Route District municipalities.
Van Niekerk said they could not support the development of social housing in George central.
I was getting calls from residents around the area, and they were concerned about their property prices, and that it was at risk.
George Mayor Leon van Wyk told TIF News he had written to the Garden Route municipality and Simmers ahead of the social housing summit hosted on Monday.
“The letters contained concerns raised by George Municipality that the actions of GRDM (Garden Route District Municipality) in hosting such a summit are premature and run the risk of raising unrealistic expectations among potential beneficiaries, the public and potential housing partners – in particular where the properties identified may not be suitable for development,” he added.
Van Wyk said several social housing projects were in the pipeline in the George Municipality to accommodate the approximately 1 700 people listed on the social housing database. He added that the required planning and environmental assessments would be done, including thorough public participation processes.
“For how long do the likes of Van Niekerk and Van Wyk believe that sustaining the model of spatial injustice inherited from the past is sustainable?” Donovan Saptoe, a GOOD councillor in George, said.
MEC Simmers, the Western Cape DA leader, said the party had taken note of the allegations made by GOOD.
“Instead of attempting to politicise these allegations, my advice would be for all political parties and councillors to empower themselves with what affordable housing is and how it differs from the BNG housing opportunities we also deliver. Both programmes are part of the housing code,” he said.
Plaaslike Besorgde Inwoners (PBI) general secretary in George Sunè Soonies said the FF+ cited “bizarre reasons… as to why they are not in favour of these developments in town”.
“The PBI believes these reasons are just a ruse to conceal deep-seated racism, separate development and maintaining an exclusive inner city for the privileged,” Soonies said.
“Since the FF+ has now been exposed for who they are, the DA must urgently break ranks with them. The votes of liberal and decent white people, who voted on DA promises for change and transformation, cannot be wasted on conservative and ultra right-wing ideologies,” Soonies added.