Jews seek affordable housing in Sea Point
In last week’s SA Jewish Report, they placed an advert with their signatures that read: “We, Jewish Capetonians, call for social housing in Sea Point and on other sites in an inclusive Cape Town.”
This is the latest turn in the controversial Tafelberg saga.
In November 2015, the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School (PJJDS) was notified that it was the preferred bidder in a public tender process for the almost two hectare property, but the sale was halted last May, with the Western Cape High Court ordering the provincial government, owners of the land, to conduct a public participation process in the matter.
Thirty-year-old signatory Daniel Linde, an attorney who is the deputy director of the Equal Education Law Centre, says their submission and advert was aimed at expressing support for the use of well-situated public land for public good and in particular to support the campaign to build social housing at Tafelberg.
“It was really about giving a voice to some members of the Jewish community and to make it clear that there are significant portions of our community that do support that kind of policy. Many of us are really excited about the prospect of social housing near to the city centre and Tafelberg is obviously one of the best-situated places,” he told Jewish Report.
“We wanted to say that the state must ensure that working class people who work in Sea Point or town and are travelling great distances, can be closer to work, can experience Sea Point’s amenities and don’t have to leave their children back home early in the morning.”
In January, an e-mail signed by Samuel Seeff, chairman of the Western Province Priorities and Planning Board, and Lance Katz, deputy chairman of the board of governors of the PJJDS, was circulated in which the Jewish community was discouraged from participating in a meeting called to discuss the issue by activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi “as it may be detrimental to the community’s interests”.
Katz told Jewish Report it was never their intention to dissuade people from attending the meeting. “Unfortunately some interpreted it that way which caused some upset and that is regrettable.
“We have a diverse Jewish community with a range of views on different issues. That diversity is the strength of our community.”
Similarly, with regard to the petition (submission), individuals were within their rights to express their views. “Much of what the petition says about the importance of affordable housing in creating an accessible and inclusive city, are views we ourselves have expressed.”
The province’s feasibility study to which the submission was a response, proposes a mixed-use development that would include social housing as well as a school or a community centre. Would the PJJDS in that case be willing to be part of such a facility?
“It is impossible to say until Province makes their decision and their intentions for the site clear,” says Katz. “If they resile from the sale agreement with us, we will need to look afresh at all options, including the possibility of being part of a mixed-use development.”
Aside from increased awareness and support in the Jewish community since the petition’s publication, Linde says there has been a spin-off further afield. “People across different classes, races and religions, see also that there’s a big section of Capetonian Jewish people, many of whom connect deeply with their Jewish identity, who feel that social housing on available public land around the city, including Tafelberg, will make Cape Town a more just and equal place for all to live in,” he says.
“Reclaim the City (a campaign for affordable housing development in the inner city) posted our submission on Facebook a few days ago – there are a lot of comments from South Africans who have expressed positivity around the letter and seeing so many members of the Jewish community supporting affordable housing close to the city.”