Tenants want Sisulu to deny Communicare access to R600m Covid-19 rent relief

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Apr 14, 2021


Cape Town - The Communicare tenant beneficiaries have written to Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, begging her to prevent Communicare from accessing the R600 million Covid-19 rent relief.

R300 million of the total has been allocated for the Residential Rent Relief Programme (RRRP) to support social housing institutions.

The request comes a week after the tenant beneficiaries and Communicare both endorsed a petition raised by social justice group Ndifuna Ukwazi, and a number of civil society organisations, urging Sisulu to release the rent relief monies.

Tenant beneficiaries spokesperson Neville Petersen said: “Communicare did not assist our tenant beneficiaries during the pandemic. Instead, tenants were offered a three month holiday period, which had to be paid back with interest. Tenants are now faced with rent arrears and court summonses for evictions.

“We are calling on Minister Sisulu to intervene and pay the Covid-19 pandemic rent relief fund to the tenant beneficiaries instead of Communicare. This will enable us to oppose the court eviction applications that will follow once the Covid-19 lockdown regulations are lifted.”

Responding to the letter from the beneficiaries on behalf of the minister, Human Settlements chief of staff Francois Hugo said: “The matter is receiving attention and we will revert to you in due course.”

In April last year, following the Covid-19 lockdown, Communicare chief executive Anthea Houston said: “We are offering all tenants who have been financially affected by the national lockdown an opportunity to apply for special rental relief.

"Each application will be reviewed individually to consider what relief can be extended to the tenant. Relief may be in the form of rental deferment, rental reduction or use of the deposit.”

Yesterday Houston said: “Communicare has not received any funds from the government for rent relief.

“All the financial relief Communicare has offered tenants to cope with the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic has been funded through the organisation's social enterprise model."

In her budget speech to Parliament in July last year, Sisulu said that her department would allocate monies towards rental relief to tenants in affordable housing facing financial distress due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The funding, aimed at tenants in formal affordable housing, was meant to help those facing potential homelessness to meet their monthly rental obligations. This, in turn, would assist landlords who depended on rental income to survive.

According to the department, the rent relief issue is currently in the Parliamentary process and, once finalised, the public will be informed.

Meanwhile, the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) has said it is on stand by to roll-out the long awaited rent relief programme, once it is officially launched.

SHRA spokesperson Lesego Diale said: “The RRRP will be made available retrospectively from April 1, 2020. Only South African citizens are eligible to apply for relief.”

Cape Argus