The City of Cape Town says it will prioritise the issue of the council-owned houses in Maynard Street, Gardens.
Residents of 11 of the properties have been living in fear of eviction since they were alerted to the City’s intention to sell the homes when an advert appeared in a newspaper in December 2015.
There are 12 houses in total but one is vacant and around 60 people are affected. Some of the residents gathered at the Civic Centre on Thursday, June 7, for a follow-up meeting with City officials.
The mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, Stuart Diamond, called and chaired the meeting with the residents, stating that he wanted to set the record straight. This comes after the residents met with mayoral committee member for area north, Suzette Little, on May 31 to demand answers (“No answers on housing”, Atlantic Sun, May 31).
Ward councillor Brandon Golding and the City’s director of property management, Ruby Gelderbloem were present at the meeting last week, as were officials from mayoral committee member for transport and urban development Brett Herron’s office, as he couldn’t attend due to other commitments.
Among the residents’ concerns are the ever increasing market-related prices of the properties, which are in a poor condition. They fear they will not be able to afford the houses should they be made available to buy.
Spokesperson for the residents, Jerome Izaaks, told the officials that the last correspondence they got from the City was in 2016. He said they are not going to wait for another two years and they were now giving the City an ultimatum.
He said they have consulted lawyers about this issue.
He said they did not understand how the properties were worth R5million when they were flooded when it rained. He said residents wanted fair prices that reflect the state that the properties are in.
Mr Diamond told residents that he shared the disappointment with the residents and admitted that they dropped the ball, but they wanted to move forward in a positive manner.
He said the project was sitting with two portfolios: Transport and urban Development Authority (TDA) and property management.
He said he’s had meetings with Ms Little and Mr Herron about the houses.
Mr Diamond said the City will execute the plan they had in 2016 and that the houses will be offered to tenants at the 2016 prices.
He said the property management’s point of view was that tenants cannot negotiate if they have an outstanding debt.
However, he assured the residents that there would be no evictions. “We will engage with the residents and if one can’t afford to purchase the property, we will discuss it and see a way forward, we want to avoid evictions,” said Mr Diamond.
He admitted that there had been a lack of transparent communication, which made people fret.
“Going forward, the City officials have committed to prioritising and focusing on the Maynard Street properties, a detailed plan of action setting out the necessary statutory processes and timeframes will be compiled under my leadership and disseminated to the Maynard Street tenants,” said Mr Diamond.
Mr Golding told residents that he was not only a councillor of the area, but he was also a neighbour of Maynard Street. He said there was confusion in 2016 in terms of evaluation of properties and that the demographics of the residents will be checked and if it need be, the City will extend the leases. He said the City is committed to resolving this matter.
Ms Gelderbloem told residents that as much as they are committed to do one-on-one engagements with residents, they have to understand that the engagements are not final decisions.
She said they negotiate with people but at the end of the day, it’s the council that makes a final decision.
Resident Susan Oelofse, who has been living in the area since 1977, said the statement about debt was worrisome for her. “I’m a bit worried about the debt part because I inherited debt from my now ex-husband. I don’t know whether the debt will be written off but they did say that they won’t evict anyone, so I’m hopeful,” she said.
Mr Izaaks said: “We are satisfied, cautiously optimistic because it is promises, but there seems to be administrative and political will to resolve the matter and I’m happy to go back home now and share the good news with the old people who couldn’t make it to the meeting because this matter has been dragging for such a long time.”