Rea Vaya buses parked at the bus depot in Meadowlands, Soweto. Photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - Hundreds of Orange Grove, Fellside, Bramley, Berea and Highlands North residents are living in a state of fear and insecurity after being informed by local estate agents that the City of Joburg wants to buy their properties.

Residents living along the new Rea Vaya bus route on Louis Botha Avenue are being approached, without any prior information, and being told their properties have been identified on maps as places needed for the Orange Grove corridor of freedom.

The city has identified three pilot areas for these corridors – the other one is the Empire/Perth corridor and the third is the Turffontein corridor. The idea is to not only uplift the declining residential areas, but to densify them around bus and transport routes.

It appears the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), acting on behalf of the city, has given estate agents a certain number of properties each to start selling.

Now residents are faced with the possibility that if they don’t sell, they could find themselves living in the middle of a low-cost housing project or a high-rise building.

Orange Grove ward councillor Marcelle Ravid said residents are upset and nervous. “Some estate agents are much too aggressive. Residents must understand it’s not expropriation. I, as a councillor, was not informed beforehand, nor have I seen a list of properties or any over-all plan,” she said.

After approaching the city’s planning department, she has been promised a map of the affected properties and she says she intends meeting with the agents.

“I am very concerned that estate agents are giving the wrong impression to residents they are approaching about the sale of their properties. I have a 90-year-old woman who is scared out her wits!”

Orange Grove resident Shane Crafford is worried. “I was asked, out of the blue, by an estate agent, if I would sell my property to the city. I was told that I didn’t have to, but should consider it because of the uncertainty of what will be happening in the area,” he said.

Crafford said he just completed renovations to his house which is now valued at R1.7 million.

“The municipal value is only R750 000. So what are they going to offer me? I invested in my house because I like living in this area. I may be forced to move now.”

Roger Chadwick of the Orange Grove Residents Association said there appeared to be an attempt at coercion tactics being employed by the less scrupulous agents who were telling residents there would be wholesale expropriation and to “sell now and get a fair price”.

“The residents’ association needs to advise residents properly. I continually get calls from residents regarding the flood of agents on their door. The elderly appear to be targeted now. I am advising residents who contact me to carefully consider the real issue. Do you want to sell? Can you afford to sell? If you sell, where can you buy? My advice is to not be railroaded into doing the wrong thing by speculators/agents. There appears to be a feeding frenzy being generated by estate agents,” he said.

Chadwick accused the development planning department of a lack of effective communication and said it is of great concern.

“Misinformation is usually created by a lack of correct information; misinformation and rumour breed in these circumstances, as we have witnessed,” he said.

Neither the JDA nor the city’s planning department replied to repeated requests for comment or clarification.

Estate agents approached for comment also refused to speak, saying the city had forced them to sign non-disclosure agreements.

The Star