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Residents unite in protest

The People’s Street Assembly on Social Housing, consisting of Communicare tenants gathered outside the provincial legislature in Wale Street, Cape Town, on Friday 25 October to hand over a memorandum to the provincial minister of human settlements, Tertius Simmers.

The group were from Communicare units in Brooklyn, Ruyterwacht Thornton and Rondebosch.

Simmers was delivering his annual report for 2018/19 to an oversight committee.

During the meeting, Simmers said the policy of the province was that pensioners of social housing were not allowed to pay more than 30% of their income towards rent and that social housing rentals could not be market-related.

Asked for clarity, the department said residents “often use the term ‘social housing’ incorrectly.”

“All tenants (including the elderly) within a social housing development enter into a lease agreement, which will stipulate annual rental increases. The respective lease agreement of any tenant will thus reflect the annual increase.”

Marcellino Martin, spokesperson for Simmers, said they would respond to the memorandum.

“We’ve committed to responding within seven days for further engagement and to seek clarity,” said Martin.

Neville Petersen, spokesperson for the Communicare tenant beneficiaries, said they wanted to lodge a grievance with the Western Cape Rental Housing Tribunal in Wale Street, however the office was closed. “We’ve been informed they are having a sport’s day. This is unacceptable. As tax-paying members of society, we should have the right to lodge our complaints. No-one should have the right to shut down government services for pleasure,” said Petersen.

Karabo Makgoane, acting chair of Welverdiend residence forum, said tenants spent their meagre income to travel to the city to lodge their complaints, which included the possible demolition of Welverdiend, a Communicare-owned property, at Rouwkoop Avenue, Rondebosch.

Communicare provides rental housing to a range of tenants including a portfolio of social rentals (properties rented at discounted rates).

The non-profit organisation uses a cross-subsidisation model to keep some rentals down. It has no shareholders and surplus funds are ploughed back into the organisation. It combines the state’s capital grants and subsidies with surpluses from its commercially-viable residential property activities to finance the development of new social rentals.

At present only two of its properties are classified as social housing developments: Gardens in Bothasig and Drommedaris in Brooklyn. 

In May last year Communicare established the private company GoodFind Properties to manage all units that are rented out at close to market rates. 

A process was started to transfer the management, leasing and tenant engagement of some of its properties to GoodFind.

Communicare CEO, Anthea Houston previously told

TygerBurger’s sister publication in the southern suburbs, People’s Post, that “any surpluses made by GoodFind Properties will be used by Communicare to add more units and to cross-subsidise our discounted rentals which we will also market under distinct brands” (“Communicare explains” 12 November 2018).

Since the transfers, some tenants have complained of increases in rent and utility services. 

Demands handed over at the People’s Street Assembly included a request for the minister of housing settlements’ intervention to resolve outstanding rental tribunal cases; an investigation into alleged inefficiencies at the tribunal; the expropriation of Communicare property and land; a halt to the Welverdiend demolition; for title deeds and homeownership to be awarded to current tenants and the scrapping of all rent arrears.

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