City-owned houses in Maynard Street in Gardens are no longer going to be demolished. Picture Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Despite promises by the City that they would not lose the only homes they’ve known for decades, 12 Maynard Street families in municipal houses may find themselves out in the cold.

Gail Currie, 58, reminisced about the first day she walked through the door of her Maynard Street, Gardens, home 34 years ago. “The lounge was like a ballroom, it was massive.

“I was not used to such a huge space because I came from a bachelor flat. I had one child at the time and she was only six. I had my other two children here,” she said.

Now Currie, along with 11 other families, claims the City has “changed its story and gone back on its word”.

Currie works as a part-time researcher and said she would not be able to afford the hefty prices.

“I cannot afford the R2.6 million they want to sell the house to me for. They promised to do individual assessments and consider our individual circumstances before putting a price to the houses. They did not do that.

“They spoke about interest-free loans and also rent-to-buy but that is also not on the table. They have gone back on their word and the agreement.

“We cannot let go of our homes that were neglected by the city for many years. Now they want to sell the houses we have maintained for years. We are like one big happy family here. We braai together, talk to each other about our problems and are able to assist each other with anything,” she said.

Two months ago, Weekend Argus published a story detailing an agreement reached by the 12 families and the City’s mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, Stuart Diamond.

At the time, Diamond said none of the families would be evicted from their homes and those who did not meet the requirements to buy their homes would be offered an option to lease or rent-to-buy.

Now the families are again fearful of losing their homes as individual house assessments will be undertaken as of next Friday. They also feel that the discussions into possible options for those who cannot afford to buy the houses have now been taken off the table.

In an email conversation between the City’s Godfrey van Wyk and Jerome Izaaks, spokesperson for the Maynard Street Council Tenants, in response to a question about what “other options are available to tenants who cannot afford to buy?”, the City said they could not “discuss options at this stage as the responses need to be gathered and the assessment report tabled”.

The tenants received valuation letters from the City of Cape Town’s Transport and Urban Development Authority on July 19. Though the homes are owned by the City, the tenants have had to maintain them over the years, however, following the City’s walkabout in the area on a drive to do physical evaluations, these 12 homes have been valued at between R2.6m and R4m.

Following the arrival of the valuation letters, the tenants sourced independent valuations which placed the houses between R1.5m and R1.75m.

However, Diamond told Weekend Argus: “The City reiterates its willingness to engage with the Maynard Street tenants and is continuing to do so as part of the City’s undertaking.

“Due to the unique circumstances of each tenant, the City will be engaging with them on a one-to-one basis and is not at liberty to divulge private details of the engagement.”

Tenant and social activist Izaaks has been angered by this new development, saying not only does it not speak to the previous agreement they made with Diamond in June this year, but the tenants would not be able to afford these hefty prices.

“Tenants have great difficulty trying to fathom why the City appears to be hell-bent on putting profit before people.

“The City is flouting their own and our agreed processes. The letters that they issued expect tenants to raise finance within 29 days or tenants must indicate whether they want to buy or continue to rent.

“This they want to happen within 29days from date of receipt of the letters, whereas I’ve been fighting this bureaucratic process with the city for 13years. Why the sudden rush?” questioned Izaaks.

He said that they had previously “agreed at our meeting in June that individual social assessments” would be done in order for the City to obtain a holistic view of everyone’s personal circumstances.

“We are of the view that these assessments will show what individual tenants are able to afford.

“The City is dishing out title deeds to tenants across the peninsula, but continuously fails to address the Maynard Street issue. Instead, the councillors and city officials keep throwing legislation such as the Municipal Asset Transfer Regulations and the Public Finance Management Act in tenants’ faces.

“The councillors must please read the regulations carefully, because these make provision for a municipality to deviate from the regulations if there are sufficient socio- economic circumstances to the benefit of a community.”

The families are now hopeful for intervention from the mayor, along with answers as to “why all other council tenants across the peninsula are receiving title deeds, but not Maynard Street”.

“That’s what the tenants want to know. Why must they pay millions when council disposes of properties in the CBD to other city-owned houses at tens of thousands, for example,” said Izaaks.

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Weekend Argus