• LOCATION 3 | A Community in Crisis: Gentrification in Woodstock and Salt River

    Old Biscuit Mill

    Stop here and have a look to your left, through the gate. This used to be a flour mill and the tall, industrial building with Standard Mills written on it used to be a storage space for grain.

    In 2005, Indigo Properties – who also own the Woodstock Exchange and are launching a new development opposite the Exchange – refurbished the mill. The new tenants included the Test Kitchen, a fine-dining restaurant, the Creative Academy, and a chocolate factory.

    The Neighbourgoods Market was launched at around the same time. It takes place every Saturday morning and is hugely popular with tourists and trendy locals, who come here to shop for hip clothes and gourmet food.

    The name "Neighbourgoods" might suggest that the market is inclusive, but the craft beer, artisanal cheese and almost everything else is too expensive for working-class Woodstock and Salt River locals.

    The Biscuit Mill is often accused of driving the surrounding regeneration.

    Continue walking now and I'll tell you more.

    To understand how gentrification started here, it’s important to know about two events.

    The first was the removal of rent control in 2003. Rent control was implemented here in the 1920s and while it protected white tenants most of the time, all of Woodstock and Salt River’s residents benefited from this regulation. Locals fought to maintain rent control, but lost.

    The second event was just one year later, in 2004. Parts of Woodstock and Salt River were included in the National Treasury’s Urban Development Zone, which gave tax incentives to developers. The new zoning laws included incentives for low-cost housing units, but none have ever been built. The Biscuit Mill was the first business to take advantage of these new laws.

    In an article on News24, Sarita Pillay wrote that before 2004, property sales on Bromwell Street -- which is the street behind the Biscuit Mill -- did not exceed R135 000. But in 2015, a Bromwell Street property sold for R5.9m. The author also says that it's hard to say exactly how many people have been evicted in Woodstock and Salt River, but just by looking at the number of high-profile evictions, it runs into the hundreds. It’s also important to know that, according to the 2011 census, just more than 50% of Salt River’s households earned R6 400 per month or less. In Woodstock this figure was 42% of households.

    Keep walking to the circle.

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A Community in Crisis: Gentrification in Woodstock and Salt River