Housing headaches

Backyard dwellers overpowered security at the Heideveld housing project and took 32 sets of keys before illegally moving into some of the vacant houses.

A group of Heideveld backyarders overpowered security at the housing development in Long Kloof Circle, took 32 sets of keys, and illegally moved into some of the vacant houses on Thursday February 1.

The 30 people said their actions were the result of their frustration at being overlooked for housing opportunities and having been unfairly treated in the selection process. Some of them said they had been on the City’s housing waiting list for many years, but because their documentation went missing, they were forced to re-apply, and now have to wait even longer for a house.

Ward 44 councillor Anthony Moses, however, said 18 of the group were beneficiaries of this housing project, who had become impatient and moved into the incomplete houses. A criminal case has since been opened against this group, and on Friday February 2, members of the City’s law enforcement removed them from the properties.

Among those who claim she had to re-apply, is Fatima Williams, who said she made her initial application in 1993.

“The conditions where I stay are not ideal. I live in a wendy house. I have no water, no toilet and no electricity. Sometimes the neighbours help me with a little water, but with the situation now, not everybody wants to help.

“The stress has affected my health. We used to be 12 people living on that property. I have had several heart attacks because of my poor living conditions and the stress it brings. I applied to be on the housing waiting list in 1993. When they could not find my documents, they made me re-apply in 2006. I have applied for a house, I went to meetings, but they keep overlooking me,” Ms Williams said.

Shariefa Henderson, who shares a small wendy house with her six children, said she was initially approved for a house, but later her application was turned down.

“I applied to be on the housing waiting list 18 years ago. My husband and I had been estranged for many years, and because we were married in community of property, I was told to divorce him. I have asthma and high blood pressure. I took in all my documents to Cape Town Civic Centre and the City’s housing section in Wale Street over the years. At one stage I was approved for a house, but later they turned me down. We have been everywhere for help. We don’t know who else to turn to,” Ms Henderson said.

Shaheda Adams said their group of 25 were all approved for housing at one stage, but for some reason, their names “could not be found on the system”.

“There is heavy corruption involved in this housing project. I know of a family where the wife, her husband and their son each got a house. Rumours are doing the rounds that houses are being sold for R20 000 each.

“Police officers and traffic officers, who all earn above the qualifying threshold, live here. There are also foreign nationals living in these houses. How is that possible, when we have been turned away? Nobody is taking our plight seriously. Our ward councillor, Mr Moses, is not interested in our situation. When we took the keys from the security, we informed Mr Moses, the bosses of the security, the community liaison officer and the project manager. We were not violent, and we wanted these people to come out to address us, but none of them turned up,” Ms Adams said.

Anwar Jongie said his situation sometimes brought him to tears. Mr Jongie showed the Athlone News a burn scar on his upper body where, he said, he was burnt with boiling water by the people he used to share a house with.

Things could have been different for him, he said, if proper processes had been followed when he tried to apply for a house 13 years ago. Mr Jongie claims a former ward councillor lost his original documentation, which stated he applied to be on the housing waiting list in 1987.

“I was stupid and trusted her and gave her my original green book, and she was going to help me with a house. That was about 13 years ago. Year after year, I would go back to her, and every time it’s different stories. The last time I went to her, she asked me to fill in an application. I have since learnt that the documents I filled in means that I have only been registered to be on the housing waiting list since last year,” he said.

Shahieda and Riedewaan Bakkus were forced to leave their 12-year-old daughter with a family friend in Heideveld after the house they rented was sold. The couple now live in a small room in Hanover Park.

Mr Bakkus is wheelchair-bound and Ms Bakkus has to walk from Hanover Park to Heideveld, while pushing Mr Bakkus in his wheelchair for their day hospital appointment dates, among others. The couple say they are frustrated and are desperate for housing.

“All I want is a house for my family. Why must our daughter not live with us? I applied to be a beneficiary of the then Gems housing scheme in 1999, and I am supposed to be on the council housing waiting list since then, but the system shows we only applied in 2008,” Ms Bakkus said.

Mr Moses said he met with the group on Monday February 5, explaining to them that he cannot address them as a collective.

“We have to look at each case individually. Not all of them wanted to do this. Some gave me their identity documents, and I could check on the system for them. What I found is that one of them was not on the housing waiting list, another turned down a rental opportunity and now has to wait until another opportunity comes. One person was shown to have been on the waiting list since 1996, but the system showed that the person had previously owned property.

“As for the allegation that young people are getting houses, I explained to them that what could have happened is that their parents applied for housing, and have since passed on, leaving them as the next-of-kin, hence they are there legally.

“I also explained to them that as far as I understand it, nothing prohibits you from renting out your home. Beneficiaries are not allowed to sell the houses within eight years of ownership, but once you have your title deed, you can rent it out. I was told that the foreign nationals are renting these units from the owners,” Mr Moses said.

As for the Bakkus couple, Mr Moses said he “feels for that family”.

“I explained to Ms Bakkus that Gems housing was a private initiative and had nothing to do with the City. And because they have only been on the housing waiting list since 2008, they do not qualify for this project. I have looked at ways to help them. I even bought stationery for their daughter. I even wanted to see if I could find someone who would be willing to sponsor by paying their rent for them. I really feel for this family, but the community must understand that I don’t have the power to give houses to people.”