Residents, councillors and the community policing forum are at their wits’ end about the properties, which were allegedly abandoned by tenants who were municipal employees, without formal termination in 2013. The properties attracted vagrants, and the municipality hired a private security company to guard the houses.
A resident, who did not want to be named, said she had watched the houses deteriorate over the years. She said the fence had fallen down, the grass was overgrown, the verges were unkempt and there were potholes.
“It has become an embarrassment to anyone with a sense of pride in their community. It is such a waste of money because those houses could be sold to someone who needs a home. Instead, the houses have been allowed to become neglected and an eyesore.”
Ward 21 councillor Mfanufikile Qwabe said he had reported the houses to the Department of Human Settlements in 2016. He said the department took the matter to the municipality’s real estate unit, which evaluated the houses. Qwabe never received a report.
He was unhappy about the houses because they brought criminal elements. “The use of security guards is not sustainable,” said Qwabe.
He had received reports from residents about the houses and it also came up during CPF meetings.
“My suggestion was for the (houses) to be let out to the community or municipal workers,” he said.
Ward 19 and 21 councillor Riona Gokool has been corresponding with the municipality for six years about the houses, but the problem, she said, started long before.
Gokool said that at one stage the municipality wanted to sell the houses for commercial purposes but the community was unhappy because the houses were in a residential area.
“There are people who want to buy these houses or rent them, but the municipality is dragging its feet,” Gokool said.
She claimed the municipality was spending at least R200 000 a year on security, and residents felt this could rather have been used for weed eradication and to combat illegal dumping - problems which plague the suburb.
“In my last correspondence with the municipality (January 25) I was told the new head of the real estate unit requested that a verification process of all residential properties be undertaken and that all reports be submitted simultaneously to the relevant committees,” she said.
Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the council houses had been vacant since July 2013 and security deployed in order to protect them from vandals and deter squatters.
“The municipality’s parks, recreation and culture unit has expressed an interest in using the properties for a short term. A report has been prepared and submitted to council requesting approval to make the property available via an open tender,” Mayisela said.
The city was asked about how much was spent on private security at these two properties, for how long private security had been deployed there and the number of vacant municipal-owned houses under guard, but no further comment was forthcoming.