The Price of Gentrification

July 10, 2017

The suburb of Woodstock located east of central city Cape Town, South Africa, has been undergoing social and economic change since 2007, pushing poor residents of color out and inviting the financially ept in.

Woodstock, a formerly mixed neighborhood from color to religion that maintained its’ diversity during apartheid has been shook and changed due to rising costs. Businesses and homes today continue to go under for those who can’t afford it.

It is a lucrative location for investment and economic opportunity, and a memory to residents who  faced forced evictions and relocation due to rising costs and the gentrification exacerbation during the FIFA World Cup in 2010. It is noted that during the time of the World Cup, investment rose as  homes were bought and re-developed into luxury flats for incoming tourists.

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Marietta Monagee, a former resident of Woodstock

Since 2003, the Urban Development Zone (UDZ) incentive plan offered tax benefits to investors which drew investment into Cape Town and suburbs like Woodstock.

The average home cost in Woodstock has risen 168 percent in 9 years, from 690,750 thousand rand ($53,739) in 2008, to 1.85 million rand ($143,927) in 2017.

The investment in Woodstock has brought business and jobs, while creating a hip, rejuvenated neighborhood, yet higher housing rates have negatively impacted the futures of thousands. Those who faced forced evictions faced a downgraded lifestyle with many pushed to living in shacks about 40 minutes outside of central city to Blikkiesdorp, a Temporary Relocation Area (TRA).

They said our relocation would only be three to six months. I’ve been here for ten years now, Blikkiesdorp resident Marietta Monagee told us. She has been there since 2007.

Blikkiesdorp, developed between 2007 and 2010, translates into ‘tin can town’, and is where 8,000 to 10,000 displaced residents live. Many of the residents in particular were moved here during the World Cup as they recalled their memories to us.

The location of Blikkiesdorp has set off an additional topic of debate as the TRA is located near Cape Town International Airport. The residents are once again under threat of relocation as the airport is planning to build an additional runway.

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A view down a path lined with the homes of the residents

Those forced to resettle beyond the city boundaries of Cape Town are now facing harsher realities. In addition to no longer having homes, opportunities to better themselves socially and financially are hard to come by.

I don’t work and neither do my two kids. I also have a grandchild that we must take care of, how could we afford to go back? Monagee says, explaining that jobs are hard to find in Blikkiesdorp, and that transportation to work outside the area is expensive.

Mbalenhle Ngubane, a two year resident of Woodstock commented on the double-edged sword of the transformation of Woodstock.

I have seen locals being moved from their homes to make way for new properties to be developed. I have seen property developers building large apartment blocks but with no low cost housing in sight. Most businesses are doing well as the area is vibey. I only would hope for more low cost housing to create the balance.

The Reclaim the City campaign is fighting the continuous change in Woodstock as Albert Street has become the latest in a push for evictions. On June 29 the campaign supporters will be making an appearance at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court to rally against the evictions.

 

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