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Housing activist audit finds 'quality rooms' in occupied Cape Town public building

29 March 2017 - 19:07 By Farren Collins
The Helen Bowden Nurses Home has been occupied by Reclaim the City protesters.
The Helen Bowden Nurses Home has been occupied by Reclaim the City protesters.
Image: GroundUp

An audit by activists occupying the Helen Bowden Nurses Home in Green Point‚ Cape Town‚ found that “minimal resources” were required to make the building ready for housing.

According to their findings‚ the building had 201 rooms which could be “refurbished and repaired” in “[minimal] time” to be made available for affordable housing.

An occupant‚ a supporter of civil group Reclaim the City (RTC)‚ said that they conducted a “quantitative and qualitative audit” of all rooms including five kitchens‚ 27 bathrooms‚ four large halls and two ironing rooms.

She said the audit was completed by all seven occupiers‚ some of whom have “experience in social audits and research”.

  • Activists occupy two Cape Town buildings to press home affordable housing demandBoth of the buildings currently being occupied by civil society group Reclaim the City‚ could be ready to use for housing within a month‚ activists there said. 

“Overall‚ we were struck by the good quality of the rooms. The bedrooms all have built-in sinks‚ and many have built in cupboards. They are mostly in good condition‚ requiring new lighting‚ cleaning and in some cases floor repairs.”

On Friday RTC supporters occupied the Helen Bowden building in protest against the sale of the Tafelberg School in Sea Point by the Western Cape government. Another group of five RTC supporters occupied Woodstock Hospital on the same day.

RTC led a campaign to prevent the sale of Tafelberg so the site could be used to provide affordable housing for poor and low-income coloured and black people in the city.

  • Housing activists occupy state-owned buildings near Cape Town centreActivists supporting the Reclaim the City campaign have moved into abandoned rooms in Woodstock Hospital and Helen Bowden Nurses Home in Cape Town. 

On Tuesday the City of Cape Town announced plans to declare the city a “restructuring zone” so that “we can provide affordable housing opportunities” wherever suitable land was available.

City councilor for urban development Brett Herron said there were many opportunities for affordable housing in the metro‚ but that the city could not gain access to social housing grants from the national government unless the land was in a restructuring zone.

"As such‚ [we] have informed the [government] of our intention to denote the entire city as a restructuring zone‚” Herron said.

The provincial government supported the move which it said would “enable affordable housing initiatives”.