Housing: Logistics

Housing Report


Order of Who Receives Housing

Suggestions should be carefully considered by community members and redevelopment leaders. The proposed redevelopment of Monwabisi Park is meant to help the community members by supplying housing without displacing residents outside of the community for any length of time. A pressing issue that must be addressed before building new houses is who will live in the houses once they are built. There are multiple factors that will contribute to this decision, they include:

  • Where redevelopment starts?
  • Who was displaced because of the redevelopment?
  • Who “deserves” housing first?

Information can be gathered from the initial location of the redevelopment seed. It must be known how the pre-existing structures will be affected because of the construction. Currently, the Indlovu Project plans to develop housing on the plot of land behind the Community Centre in Section C of Monwabisi Park. The location was chosen because of the close proximity to the Indlovu Centre and to create a model “redevelopment seed” to demonstrate how, with assistance, community members can participate in meeting needs for public space, housing and improved water and sanitation services. The Shaster Foundation has raised funds, purchased a shack from a resident which has created space for the beginning stages of building, and has consulted with affected residents. This initial redevelopment seed is based around the principle of building a community around a communal shared space. Therefore, community centres will be the basis of all redevelopment seeds with new housing sprouting off of the centre on surrounding land.

The new housing will be reserved for the people that have been displaced from their shacks to make space for the new housing cluster. If the displaced residents are not immediately put into new homes the housing problem will be compounded with new shacks replacing the ones removed. We propose that the houses remaining, after all previously displaced residents have been accommodated, be used to house people that have contributed most to the redevelopment effort. This can help answer the question of who “deserves” the housing, but the issue is much more complex. Several attributes must be considered while determining the contribution levels of a community member. They could include:

  • Amount of land cleared
  • Sandbags sewn/filled
  • ecoBEAMs constructed
  • Buildings erected
  • Involvement with other community endeavours such as a soup kitchen, youth centre, crèche, etc.

The issue of who “deserves” housing is complex because what entity can make the distinction between one level of involvement and another? In order to help make this decision simpler several metrics must be considered. Either one or multiple metrics must then be selected so that the decision process is consistent throughout housing selection. Several metrics are listed and discussed below.

  • The length of time living in Monwabisi Park: A system based on seniority has both advantages and disadvantages that must be considered. The people that have lived in Monwabisi Park for the longest period of time will have been in shack conditions for that same time. Therefore, some believe that to be fair, the people in the worst conditions for the longest amount of time should receive new housing first. Unfortunately, some people in the community may feel that a system based on purely seniority does not account for what that resident has done for the community’s betterment.
  • Permanence of residence in Monwabisi Park: Many residents of Monwabisi Park have come from the Eastern Cape to find jobs in Cape Town. Some of these people have become permanent residents of Monwabisi Park, but others have come only for employment and will be returning to the Eastern Cape. Priority might be given to the people that will be staying in Monwabisi Park permanently.  Eventually when enough housing has been built a rental or selling system can be put into place in order to facilitate the process of transferring homes from a temporary resident to another person.
  • Shacks that are located in the way of infrastructure and other communal spaces: A vital principle of Monwabisi Park redevelopment is that no householders presently living in the community should be made homeless due to redevelopment. Temporary relocation to accommodate construction should be for only a short time and still within Monwabisi Park. If there are shacks that are in the way of the larger redevelopment effort, then displaced people must be offered accommodation or, should they choose to leave, compensation.
  • Size of family who will be living in the newly constructed home: The initial stages of redevelopment will be devoted to conserving space and condense Monwabisi Park with more efficient use of the land. In order to accomplish this goal the first housing clusters must contain space efficient housing. Therefore larger families may not be comfortably accommodated in the first houses to be built, but will have accommodations later in the redevelopment. While the houses are likely to be bigger than the average shack the land must be used in order to fit as many houses as possible within the set area of redevelopment.
  • A lottery system: Another option is to use a lottery system that shows no biases to any group of Monwabisi Park. The problem with this kind of system is that people selected in the lottery may not fit into the redevelopment effort. If the people selected are spread across Monwabisi Park it will be difficult to conserve the space necessary to make the redevelopment successful.

Relocation of Residents

One of the largest obstacles to starting a redevelopment effort is deciding where to begin. Both the Indlovu Project and the VPUU prioritize public facilities over housing, but because of the density of shacks throughout the settlement, it is difficult to displace residents from shacks without providing new housing. In order to properly house all residents of Monwabisi Park space efficient cluster housing must be put into effect. Therefore as more space efficient housing is constructed more people can be accommodated at a time. Unfortunately, the problem still remains for residents during the initial stages of redevelopment. In this section, we discuss potential options for relocation of residents before and during redevelopment. It is a difficult issue because people, understandably, are unwilling to give up their homes for a promise of new housing. The ideas presented in this section are for consideration only and are meant to provide ideas to redevelopment planners and community members.

  • Living with family / friends for the time necessary to build: An option that is worth exploring for a small family or single person is living with family or friends. This is another way of having a vacant shack without having to provide housing to the displaced residents. The disadvantage with this option is that it may only be viable for small families that know people capable of accommodating them. It would be the cheapest and easiest solution, however, especially if housing can be built fairly quickly.
  • Buying the resident’s shack: The Indlovu Project has already purchased shacks for the purpose of developing the land. This is a viable option, but may cause strain in a community overrun by poverty. The price for a shack and plot is R7000. In a place like Monwabisi Park this amount of money may force a person to make a rash decision before fully understanding all of its implications.
  • Temporary transition housing: The initial stages of redevelopment will require people to lose their shacks before there is new housing to accommodate the residents in. Therefore, spaces must be found for displaced people to be located. One option is to build temporary accommodations along an undeveloped edge of Monwabisi Park. The process of building temporary housing could serve as a model for how the community members and redevelopment planners can work together. This option would only be necessary for the first people to be displaced from their homes because the new housing will eventually be able to accommodate more people than it displaces. The problem with this proposed solution is the cost. In order to make this a viable option the temporary housing must be located in a place that can be used for several different redevelopment seeds. There also must be a proposed purpose for the temporary housing once the redevelopment no longer has a use for the building. Some possibilities are community spaces, guest house or rental dorms along with other possibilities.
  • Construction time when the shack is vacant: Many residents of Monwabisi Park are originally from the Eastern Cape and return to their homes during the summer holiday (Poswa & Levy, 2006). During this time of vacancy building can occur without the need of displacing residents from their homes. Unfortunately, because of the labour needed for the ecoBEAM building system that the new housing will use, this option may not be viable. It will depend on the number of people left in the settlement during the summer holiday that would be willing or able to help build houses.
  • Use vacant shacks for temporary accommodations of displaced residents: At any given time in Monwabisi Park, there are some number of vacant shacks that might be used to accommodate residents located in a redevelopment area. This option allows people to stay in a stand-alone house without the need of building a new structure. There is a possibility that some residents of Monwabisi Park would offer shacks for a small rental fee. This would provide more options for residents to move temporarily from the area of redevelopment. The Indlovu Project may be using this option in order to create space for new housing behind the community centre in Section C. The problem with this option is that it depends on too many factors to be reliable. But, when the proper circumstances are in place this option can be very valuable.

A slow start is the best possible way to keep as many people in the community as possible. Stressing that the start of redevelopment be slow and the rate of construction exponentially increase is essential to the success of the overall project. The balance will allow the initially displaced people to move into the homes that are first built and the accelerating pace will take advantage of the increasing free space created by the cluster housing.

Community Involvement

Duration of Building TimeIn order for the process of redevelopment to be sustainable community members must be active.  The ecoBEAM Technologies building system allows, and actually encourages, the use of community members for construction. Because of the economic conditions of Monwabisi Park outside construction workers and contractors cannot be afforded. The theory behind community involvement describes how residents can empower themselves and the community by being involved in the redevelopment. Past redevelopment efforts have failed because of a lack of community involvement. It has been stated that there are five different levels of community involvement. These levels describe the amount of input community members are allowed to have with regard to the redevelopment of their community. The levels of contribution are to inform, consult, involve, collaborate and empower (Xali, 2005). Each increasing level allows more collaboration and input from the community. Finding the correct balance is the key because too much community involvement will also leave the redevelopment unable to operate. According to interviews with Mike Tremeer and Robert Taylor of ecoBEAM community opinion can flood a planning session because there will simply be too many ideas.

The current process involves community leaders making the decisions for the rest of the residents of Monwabisi Park. This has created some tensions within the community among average community members and the perceived leaders. The problem is that jealousy arises from a certain few in the community that are seen as reaping all the benefits of the redevelopment. For this reason, among others, community centres have become the centre of the redevelopment seed planning. By creating community space that everyone can share, each section of Monwabisi Park will have the start of a redevelopment seed. Given the function of community centres (soup kitchen, youth centre, crèche, health clinic and guest house) the residents of all sections can come together to allow the project to prosper. The community centre should start the building of communal ties that can then be extended when housing begins. The importance of community involvement cannot be overstated. EcoBEAM will not be a viable option if the unskilled labour of community members becomes unavailable. At the very least, community members must show a vested interest in building the structures to better the community. Unfortunately, due to the sheer size of Monwabisi Park not every voice can be heard. The residents must learn this and accept the decisions of community leaders and outside planners who have their interests in mind.

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Author: WPI CT09 Buildings