Media: Poor need city housing

Francis Hweshe | Oct 13, 2010 | Sowetan

HOUSING experts and civil society groups have slammed the government over the lack of low-cost housing in city centres.

The poor have to endure “sweat, beatings, arrests, lies, water cannon, live ammunition and even death” to get well-located land for housing, said Abahlali Base Mjondolo president Sbu Zikode, a panelist at a high-profile conference dubbed “Re-imagining the city: New urban order” being held in Cape Town this week.The three-day conference, organised by the Development Action Group (DAG), brought together 40 international and local experts on urban land management and civil society organisations.

Zikode said: “It is nice to imagine a city where no one lives like a pig in the mud; where everyone is safe from fires, abuse, police raids, disconnections, evictions and political attacks.

“But land and housing are the most urgent problems in our cities and there is serious difficulty in resolving issues.

“This discussion can only begin once those who do not count begin to count. We decided long ago not to accept a situation in which some people talk about the poor and even for the poor without ever speaking to the poor.”

Zikode said while the work of intellectuals, town planners, engineers, architects and related professionals was critical, they had to work with the poor in mind.

DAG chief executive Kailash Bhama said: “The last two weeks in Cape Town have been unsettling for all South Africans, rich and poor.

“We have been painfully reminded by the unrest in the settlement of Hangberg … that land and its location . is important in the delivery of low-cost housing.

“But in South Africa the majority of low-cost housing is located on the fringes of cities where land is cheaper.

“This perpetuates urban sprawl, weakens the fragile livelihoods of the poor and entrenches inequality.”

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