Bo-Kaap houses are unaffordable

Bo-Kaap residents are unhappy about the high property rates they pay.

What apartheid laws and bulldozers failed to do in the Bo-Kaap is finally being done by stiff property rates and gentrification, say long-time residents of the neighbourhood.

City of Cape Town officials arranged a meeting at the Bo-Kaap civic centre on Tuesday November 7 to explain how residents could apply for rates rebates, but those at the meeting told the officials the whole rates system was grossly unfair and should be overhauled.

The residents said they should not have to pay higher rates simply because Bo-Kaap was near the city centre or desired by overseas buyers.

One resident, Ismail Achmat, said Bo-Kaap properties were now unaffordable for most residents.

“These are overseas people with lots of money coming into the area. They are buying properties for millions. Who values the houses?”

He blamed the City for overvaluing the properties in the Bo-Kaap, driving up rates to the point that residents could no longer afford to live in the neighbourhood they had grown up in.

“These are problems that you have created. Value the houses according to the situation of the house. It’s a sin for you to make us indigent people.”

Fowzia Achmat agreed. The rising prices of property in the Bo-Kaap, she said, was fuelling gentrification.

“This is a new way of Group Areas, of moving us out. We will fight it. You can’t just come here and tell us how it works. You have not done your homework.”

Khalil Kathrada grew up in the area and fears new developments will drive up property rates. The neighbourhood no longer trusted the City, he said.“If the City really values the people of Bo-Kaap, they must come to realise that the forefathers of these people built this city.

“A lot of the people here are elderly and on pension… This system of gentrification is pushing people out slowly.”

Last month, the City said in a statement that rates rebates, of between 10% and 100%, for senior citizens and the disabled were granted to qualifying applicants where the monthly household income was between R4 000 and R15 000.

Those who qualified for the rebates can also access the subsidised Lifeline Electricity Tariff provided their consumption is less than 450 units a month.

Johan van der Merwe, mayoral committee member for finance, said: “The value of the City’s social assistance packages increased from R2.5 billion in 2016/17 to R2.7 billion in 2017/18, and we want as many people to benefit as possible. As a caring City, we have a special responsibility to the vulnerable, including the elderly and disabled.”

Ward councillor Brandon Golding said there would be a follow-up meeting at the Bo-Kaap civic centre on Saturday November 18.