Picketers take to the streets for affordable housing

Commune Habitat members chant as their chairperson Matthys Markgraaf addresses them.

Commune Habitat Housing Support Group and its members from different communities converged on the city to march to Parliament last Friday.

The aim was to ask for land to build houses for backyarders who earned between
R3 500 and R15 000 and were not eligible for bonds.

Ravensmead area chairperson, Wilhelm Absalon said they didn’t want hand-outs or money – they just want the land so they can give people houses.

“All the minister (of human settlements) needs to do is to give them the land,” he said.

“We have already identified six areas that we want land from – Ravensmead, Kuils River, Eerste River, Elsies River, Bellville and Bishop Lavis.

“We have the finances to build houses. All we need is land for those houses and these are not going to be RDP houses. They are called Gap houses,” said Mr Absalon.

This “Gap” market caters for people who earn too much to qualify for a government housing subsidy, but too little to qualify for a bond. Commune Habitat has about
5 000 members who are backyarders and cannot afford to buy houses through the bank.

Mr Absalon said most people are already paying R2 000 to
R3 000 a month to live in a wendy house or backyard, which they could put to better use by paying a bond.

Speaking at Parliament, Commune Habitat chairperson Matthys Markgraaf said: “We want the national government to issue land for all our members. We are not going to allow the City and its authorities to override and exploit us anymore.

“The purpose of this march is to raise awareness about the importance of addressing the housing needs of the poor, vulnerable communities and to create a sense of security as well as better integration,” he added.

Representing the office of Human Settlements minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Rose Molokoane apologised that the minister was not able to address the marchers.

“She could not be here as she is in Knysna helping people rebuild their houses. But we are going to inform her that you were here and through the department we are going to arrange for your leaders to meet with the minister very soon,” Ms Molokoane said.

Mother of two, Samantha Fortune, 28, from Bellville South, said she wanted her own house to live in with her children because she couldn’t stay with her mother forever.

“I’ve been a member of Commune Habitat since last year and all I want is my own house for my family,” said Ms Fortune.

Mercia Esterhuizen, 41, also from Bellville South, said she had her own house but had been working in the community for more than 10 years, and had decided to join the march to fight for the backyarders.

“Many people in my community are backyarders and I see the challenges they are facing every day living in other people’s yard.

“I want the ministers to open their hearts and their minds for all these people who are here today. The minister must look into this matter to see the needs of the people today,” she said.