13 July 2017

South Africa: Cape Town Evictions - Residents Want City to Provide Alternative Accommodation

A lawyer representing 15 families who are being evicted from their homes wants the City of Cape Town to provide them with alternative accommodation.

The court application to evict the families in Woodstock, a suburb of Cape Town, was postponed on Thursday.

Their Legal Aid lawyer Mark Owen said he had written to the city requesting a report on what the residents relocation options would be if the eviction goes through.

"I have had no response from their legal department as yet," Owen told the Cape Town Magistrate's court.

The residents received eviction notices on March 15 for allegedly failing to pay rent for over a year at the block of flats a 23 Albert Road. They said it was because the landlord had failed to maintain the property and had cut off their water supply.

Based on previous Constitutional Court precedents, municipalities are responsible for providing alternative accommodation for people who cannot afford to do it themselves. It was not immediately clear what the property owner in Albert Road was planning for the building.

Apartheid spatial planning

A report released by the activist organisation and law centre Ndifuna Ukwazi this week stated that the inner city evictions of poor people to make way for development was akin to a new form of apartheid spatial planning.

With rentals in Cape Town rising and developers and real estate speculators snapping up property close to the city, residents were struggling to find affordable accommodation in the same area if they received eviction notices.

In January, Mayor Patricia de Lille vowed to break the apartheid-era pattern where whites live close to the city centre and places of work, with everybody else banished to the outskirts.

De Lille said at the time that, in line with the city's future plans, tracts of land had been identified to be used for "housing opportunities" for people who earned less than R3 500 a month, and that there would be a push to get more flats into and around the CBD.

The residents of the Albert Road property do not want to be sent to transitional housing in Wolwerivier, about 30km north of Cape Town, or to Blikkiesdorp, a sprawling shanty town in Delft, about 28km outside the central city. They have said that the area is too remote and that they will be cut off from their support systems.

'I only know Woodstock'

The Wolwerivier residents have told News24 that they feel they have been forgotten about, and have been left there to die. "I was born and raised in that very same building," said Albert Road resident Faghmeeda Ling outside the court.

"I only know Woodstock," said Ling. A neighbour, Avril Alexander, blamed the collapse of a roof this week on the poor maintenance of the building. "I just grabbed my little one and jumped out of the bed," she said.

She said they were unable to locate the owner of the building to ask him to repair the roof. Briefing his clients, Owen explained that until the City of Cape Town tells them what it can do for them, they cannot prepare a proper defence against the eviction.

"I am not happy to argue this matter until the council gives some indication as to what they are capable of providing," said Owen.


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