• LOCATION 24 | A Community in Crisis: Gentrification in Woodstock and Salt River

    The End: Old Schul, Argyle Street

    Now stop here, and look to the right. We'll end our tour here at the decommissioned synagogue, a reminder of Woodstock's religious diversity. It now houses the What If the World Gallery.

    In discussions around gentrification, there are always two sides. Some argue that the area is being improved. Dilapidated buildings are being refurbished, crime and drug-use decreases. The Woodstock Hub would argue that jobs are being created too. But hundreds of families are also losing their homes, and with them a legacy that may have lasted for generations. Some remember the demolitions of District Six like it was yesterday, and to them, today's evictions are no different.

    So on a surface level, encouraging the development of a depressed area seems like a reasonable step to take. But, as we've seen today, one has to ask at what price. In a city like Cape Town, where spatial apartheid is still clearly visible, one needs to think very carefully about what type of communities we are creating. Who are we creating these jobs for? Who will actually benefit from what has been coined "trickle-down gentrification"? Is it an effective concept at all?

    Before you go, I want you to listen to one more person's story. His name is Joe Schaffers, an ex-resident of District Six.

    (0:08)

    "My name is Joe Schaffers and I’m an educator at the District Six Museum, originally from District Six, I was born in 1939, and stayed till the age of 28, and from that time the forced removals happens. In 1966, District Six was declared a white area and people were then gradually taken out of the area, and being shifted out to what is known as the townships, places like Bonteheuwel and Manenberg, etc, Retreat, Steenberg, Lavender Hill. And I was part of that removal because in a sense I wasn’t forcibly removed, I got married and then I moved out, but I eventually ended up in Hannover Park, so that is one of the other townships. And over and above that I also worked as a health inspector and I worked for 34 years, I worked amongst the communities, in all the depressed areas. Coming from places like Windamere, Kensigton, then going through to Wynberg where I worked, Parkwood, Goulas Estate, going up to Retreat, Steenberg, Lavender Hill, Vrygrond, and eventually landing up in Mitchell’s Plain. At one stage I think I was the only inspector working in that whole area, so you can well imagine, me seeing the regression of people in those respective areas when they were kicked out."

    (05:06) You see what happens now looking at Woodstock and the people that have been living there, look they’ve been living on almost like a knife-edge, never-knowing when this sort of thing is going to come down on them. And it was always the fear that through gentrification, this would happen because everything is drawn by the almighty dollar and money. It’s not only Woodstock, we’re also looking at places like the Bokaap, where the same thing is happening, because of gentrification and people coming in, especially the overseas market, they push up the prices of the places. When the price of place goes up, your rates go up, and you find the older folk who are paying the same salary, they cannot afford to pay those rates. So there’s more pressure on them to sell, which is also not right, they should be given as far as I’m concerned. There should be, what would you call the word, they should be exempted from those things. But unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be happening. And what do the people do? The next thing they are being offered 2 million rand and they think this is a lot of money, and they take it, sell their place, then what do you buy with that 2 million rand and how long is it going to last? And where do they go to? Out into the townships area. Because you can’t buy anywhere else for 2 million rand, whatever they’re giving you. So you’re going to go out, and you’re going to land up in an area close to the townships, you know, out in Retreat, Steenberg, you’re still going to be out in that part of the world. It’s just perpetuating the whole idea. And those people in Woodstock, as far as I can see, I can only see the places where they can go is a place like Blikkiesdorp, Delft because all the other places are virtually full and can you imagine the fear of the people having to go to places that they don’t know. And in a moment they’re within walking distance of their schools, their place of work, their churches, recreation centres, shops, and suddenly being uprooted, thrown among total strangers, they don’t want to be taken out of their community of Bromwell Street, Alfred Street, or whatever the case may be. They’re taking out individuals and throwing them in places they don’t even know. I can imagine the fear of the parents, and their grandparents, and more so the children. And where are they going to school, where are their friends, what’s going to happen to that? So it’s a repetition of what happened with us being kicked out of areas like District Six, Claremont, Wynberg, Kirstenbosch all those areas… Bokaap, Tamboerskloof, Seapoint, Greenpoint, Mouille Point…

    This is the end of the tour. I’ll say goodbye for now, but if you’d like to find out more, check out the reading list in the route description.

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A Community in Crisis: Gentrification in Woodstock and Salt River