TENANTS of the provincial government – some for 40 years – fear they will be forced onto the streets by month-end because of a steep increase in rent.
Yesterday, they marched to the legislature to protest amended leases they have to sign to pay market-related rentals. This is substantially more than the current rental of 25% of their income.
Tenants say this means they will be forced onto the streets. If they don’t sign, they stand to be evicted on June 1.
The houses are in Naruna Estate in Plumstead, Rugby, Sanddrift and De Waal Drive in the CBD.
About 40 banner-waving tenants, mostly elderly, marched from Kaizersgracht Street in District Six.
They allege they were excluded by MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela’s Human Settlements Department during the drawing up of the leases.
Estate Residents Association chairperson Karen Saligee led the march, saying: “The protest action was called due to a lack of consultation by the MEC’s office regarding the (department’s) new revised rental policy. They unilaterally made changes to the tenants’ leases.”
She said tenants were scared because of the uncertainty. Tenants say they had renovated their houses based on a promise by the province they would own the houses.
They also did not understand some of the clauses in the amended lease, as they were (allegedly) never explained by the department, and adequate reasons were not given for why new leases were necessary.
In their memorandum the tenants object to the content and process of their current amended leases, demanding it be scrapped.
They demand a commitment from Madikizela to a public participation process where landlord and tenant could jointly create new lease agreements for all community residential units and province-owned rental housing.
They also want access to the new Rental Housing Strategy Document at least four weeks before the public participation begins. They had been trying unsuccessfully since last September to obtain a copy, but the department had been unco-operative in supplying them, said Saligee.
“The reason why we are pushing for a public participation process is that the MEC had a meeting on November 24, 2015 with the Natruna Estate residents where he committed himself to a public participation process, where they can voice concerns with the department on all aspects related to the rental units.
“(But) what is prevalent is that the (MEC) and the department do not want to co-operate with the affected communities, by affording them an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process regarding the new lease rental policy.”
Madikizela’s spokesperson, Zalisile Mbali, said they had been meeting with the tenants.
“We looked at the memorandum and would respond to the tenants in writing. We had been engaged in meetings with them, that’s why the protest comes as a surprise,” he said.
“We are putting together a detailed response. We want to treat each of the (four) areas differently, because the issues differ.”
Sanddrift tenant Sharon Groenewald said: “We are fighting to retain our homes (of the) past 25 years.”
Fellow protester Arthur Begg, from Rugby, said the department had promised them in 1994 to sell their rented houses to them.
“We have done numerous renovations to the house since we moved in 38 years ago. We were going to carry on renovating because we were promised the houses would become ours,” Begg said.