Residents of 11 council-owned houses in Maynard Street, Gardens, are still no closer to getting answers from the City of Cape Town about the future of their homes.
They were alerted to the City’s intention to sell the homes when an advert appeared in a newspaper in December 2015 and have spent more than two years fearing eviction (“We will not be moved”, Atlantic Sun, March 10, 2016).
There are 12 houses in total but one is vacant and around 60 people are affected.
Desperate to get the City to take their concerns into consideration, residents held a meeting with officials on May 21.
However, the mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron and Mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, Stuart Diamond excused themselves on Friday May 18, leaving Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for area north, and sub-council manager Freddie Prince to face the residents.
According to residents’ spokesperson, Jerome Izaaks, the meeting was scheduled about a month ago.
Among other things, residents wanted to know what would happen to the houses.
Mr Izaaks, who has been a resident of Maynard Street for 15 years, said their main issue was the sale of the properties at market-related prices, which would be too high for the long-standing tenants to afford. . He said they are not asking for handouts but want the City to sell these properties to the current tenants at a fair price.
Mr Izaaks told Ms Little that residents had maintained the houses themselves with little help from the City’s property management department.
He said they don’t understand why the City would want to sell the properties at a market-related price when they were in such poor condition, with gutters falling down and flooding every time it rains.
He asked whether the City was that obsessed with making profit and treating people unfairly.
He said each resident had a story to tell and the City needed to consider a fair sale price that was affordable to the existing tenants and based on their current financial circumstances.
Mr Izaaks went on to say that the public participation process was in overwhelming support and favour of the existing tenants purchasing the properties directly from the City.
He said the City’s property management department promised to do this in 2016 and engage with the tenants, but to this day, they hadn’t done it.
He said residents are extremely unhappy with the response they’d been getting from the City on this matter.
“This has been going on for the last 14 years. It started when Premier Helen Zille was still the mayor of Cape Town and Councillor Diamond is fully aware of this matter,” said Mr Izaaks.
“The frustration is now building up. Do we have to go to extreme measures like burning tyres for the City to listen to us?
“It’s not fair. We’re all human beings. All we are asking for is fairness.”
Mr Izaaks said the property management department needed to be held accountable.
He said they did not understand why Maynard Street residents were being treated differently to other communities across the City who had been receiving their title deeds while they were treated like backyard dwellers and living as squatters in the middle of the CBD.
Ms Little said she understood their frustrations, but she didn’t have answers for the residents.
She promised residents that she would prioritise the matter and call another meeting with residents and councillors.
“I’ll personally follow-up on this matter, and try get answers from housing, property management and other departments involved, it’s unfortunate that councillors Herron and Diamond could not be available for this meeting.”
Mr Izaaks expressed disappointment at the non-attendance of Mr Herron and Mr Diamond.
He said as elected officials, they are expected to adhere to the principles of freedom, fairness and opportunity and they are answerable to the people who elected them.
“We find it completely unacceptable that a meeting was scheduled well in advance, only for these councillors to withdraw and not avail themselves to answer to the tenants.
This type of conduct should be condemned in the strongest possible terms,” said Mr Izaaks.