Manenberg residents have accused the area’s local housing office staff of corruption, being inconsistent when applying City by-laws, and treating the community with disrespect.
This was revealed at a housing meeting called by Manenberg activist, Roegchanda Pascoe.
Ms Pascoe said she has been inundated with people seeking her help – those who are desperate for housing and who feel they have been treated unfairly in the housing allocation process, hence she called the meeting on Thursday July 27.
Ms Pascoe invited representatives from the local housing office staff, but no one attended.
“When it comes to that office, certain rules apply to some. If someone is considered an illegal occupant, then the City of Cape Town is quick to start eviction processes. However, if that illegal occupant is a gangster, or a drug dealer, it seems nothing happens to them. What upsets me, is that neighbours allow the drug dens to continue, because they are fearful. Also, the flats we live in are very small. Some families are too big for those small houses. People then extend their residences with vibracrete or bricks, and because it is a City-owned property, you need permission and plans. Again, some people are allowed to do it, while others are told to throw the extensions down,” Ms Pascoe said.
Vanessa Flowers, one of the residents who has been on the housing waiting list for 26 years, said she enquired at the local housing office about a City-owned house adjacent to where she currently stays, which has been vacant for six months. She asked if she could move in there, but she was told the house had already been allocated to someone else.
“I went there a few times to ask about the house. After the fifth month, they told me it will soon be occupied. I was told that the soon-to-be tenant was also on the housing waiting list. When this man moved in, I got the shock of my life. He cannot be older than 22 years. My question is, how long has he been on the waiting list? He is so young. Also, I have been told that I qualify for one of the new houses that was built. I signed three times as part of that process. The fourth time I went to sign, they told me my name is not on the list,” Ms Flowers said.
Shihaam Simmers, who is a cancer patient and has liver complications, said she cannot afford to fix her old and damaged wendy house, and it has a severe effect on her health.
“I gave the City doctor’s letters to prove that I am sickly. I am on the waiting list for 26 years. I too, was once approved for a housing development, but my name has since been removed. Something is not right,” she said.
The residents accused the local housing office staff of being rude, of documents going missing, and many of the staff members do not wear name tags, and refuse to give their names when asked for it. There have also been allegations that people who own properties, are also renting a property from the City.
Deborah Glen said she is on the waiting list for 28 years, but she knows of people who were given a house, and they have been on the waiting list only for five years.
Adielah Said said she too was told she qualified for a house, and signed documents in 2013 already, but she was also told that her name is no longer on the list. Ms Said has been on the waiting list for 23 years. Two years ago, she qualified to move into a City-owned house, but she said she waited for two years for the City to replace the sink that was stolen while the house was vacant.
“There were no windows, doors, no lights, taps or even a toilet pot when I moved in. The floors are just concrete, which makes the house cold, and I have arthritis throughout my body,” she said.
Many complained that whenever they make enquiries about what year of the housing application the City is giving priority to, they are given the same answer for years now – 1983.
Siyabulela Mamkeli, mayoral committee member for area central, said the City allocates houses in accordance with its allocation policy.
“In terms of rental allocation – in general – we are currently allocating rental opportunities to applicants who have been on the database since 1991 and before. Allocations are dependent on the availability of rental units,” Mr Mamkeli said.
For new low cost houses, however, things are different. Mr Mamkeli explained that the project steering committee of a housing development will make recommendations.
A percentage of the total opportunities that the project will yield to applicants who have been on the database the longest from outside the targeted areas
A percentage of the total opportunities that the project will yield for allocation to special needs cases on the database from within the targeted areas first, and if necessary from applicants that have been on the database the longest, from outside the targeted areas
The balance of these applicants are from the housing database living within the recommended targeted area/s.
He added: “The application dates reached for consideration in Breaking New Ground (new low cost housing) type opportunities would depend on the total number of opportunities within the project, for example, the project size (bigger or smaller) affects the number of opportunities granted. As a result, applicants with older dates and those with more recent dates are thus reached.”
The Downes Housing Project, which is currently under way in Manenberg, will yield a total of 587 houses by its anticipated completion date in December 2019. So far, 99 houses have been completed.
The contractor also started with another 33 houses, and 150 houses will be handed over by June next year.
It was also revealed at the meeting that new tenants of the City, will from now on sign leases that would only be valid for two years.
Stuart Diamond, the mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, confirmed this, saying the City is obliged to do this, in terms of the Consumer Protection Act.
Mr Diamond also said staff are required to wear name tags, and should give their names if requested to do so.
He encouraged residents to complain to the head of tenancy management, or the manager of home-ownership transfers, or approach their ward councillor.
Mr Diamond added: “Information with regard to tenants owning property should be furnished to the City for investigation. Should allegations be found to be correct, the case will be dealt with in terms of relevant policies and regulations which could include notice to vacate. The same will apply for anti-social behaviour cases.
“Any building extension to rental stock requires the written permission from the City as stipulated in the lease agreement.”