North beach social housing project stirs up concerns

Residents living in the area around the former Star Seaside Children's Home in North Beach have expressed their concerns regarding the municipality's plans to convert the home into a social housing development.

THE contract to convert the derelict Star Seaside Children’s Home in North Beach into social housing for households with monthly incomes of between R3500 and R15 000, will be awarded before the end of the year.

So said eThekwini’s spokesman, Tozi Mthethwa, adding that the programme was a bold initiative which would assist in redressing the spatial distortions of old apartheid cities.

However, neighbouring residents have expressed their doubts over the project and penned an urgent letter to the city detailing their concerns that the project will negatively affect their property values, tourism and will add to traffic congestion. They have also signed petitions objecting to the city’s plans for the property.

ALSO READ: City evaluates proposals for housing project

North Beach resident, Rookaya Vawda said she was concerned about the social development project planned for the property.

“I, along with other residents, am concerned about the issues of noise and litter, environmental impact, property values, effect on the tourism industry and traffic congestion,” she said.

“The city is in a state of decay. There are limited job opportunities available and our area is swamped by vagrants and beggars. The city should consider uplifting the derelict buildings on the Esplanade and CBD. Many of us have invested our life savings to buy in the area. Development of this nature will result in the lowering of the property values and affect the tourism industry. The property is unsuitable for social housing, which will inevitably create problems and impact on the environment in terms of noise and litter,” she said.

Vawda added that many private investors had submitted proposals to develop the property and urged the city to consider them as they would add value to the area.

However Mthethwa pointed out that the existing building was built in the 1970s and was one of several in the Central Business District area under consideration for refurbishment into a social housing facility to make affordable rental accommodation available to households with monthly incomes in the range R3 500 to R15 000.

ALSO READ: More resources needed to deal with  mushrooming problem buildings

“The building is in need of repairs and maintenance and has not been in use for a number of years now. It is derelict and an eyesore. It has fallen into a severe state of disrepair. It is a sizeable building and the vacant portion of the land on the eastern side could accommodate a multitude of new multi-storey buildings. The site can also accommodate parking and vehicular circulation with ease depending on the use and Town Planning requirements. The strategic location is ideally situated and could provide valuable opportunities for much needed centrally located accommodation,” she said.

She said the property offered developmental potential for residential opportunities for low and moderate income households.

“The choice of residence for many low income families is very limited in South Africa. The eThekwini Municipality has undertaken to provide rental accommodation for lower income groups not viably serviced by the social or other housing programmes. To this end, it aims to make rental stock accessible to the lower income market,” said Mthethwa.

She said the City had circulated a request for proposals from accredited Social Housing Institutions, and various proposals had been received and assessed and the contract would be awarded on the basis of this assessment before the end of 2017.

“All proposed uses of the building take into account the nature of the surrounding area and neighbouring buildings. Any new development which takes place on this site will aim to enhance and improve the building and contribute to social and spatial integration of our city while preserving the character and potential of the area,” she said.

 

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  AUTHOR
Lauren Walford
Journalist

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