Friday, 15 June 2018 18:50

Cape Town Evictions Leave The Poor Out in The Cold Featured

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In what seems to have become a cruel pattern in Cape Town, the evictions of large numbers of people take place in the coldest months of winter and in virtually all those cases, the City of Cape Town's Metropolitan Municipality in some or other manner, to some degree, happens to be a stakeholder.

Cape Town’s largest social housing project, Steen Villa which has 700 Units, developed by SOHCO Property Investments, a Social Housing NGO on land leased from the City of Cape Town for R150 per annum.

Yes... That is only R150 a year and the general understanding from the public is that because of this concession from the city, rental for the units should be much less than the equivalent market related rates for a similar unit.

The City cannot legally or morally claim that they are not stakeholders in the matter.


Steen Villa evictees outside the Cape High Court on Friday 15 June 2018 - Image by Daniel Frans


At the time of writing the Steen Villa evictees were awaiting a Cape High Court ruling in their bid to have evictions overturned.
While hoping for a favourable outcome for the evictees, we also look at what the South African Constitution says about evictions that leave people homeless as it is most relevant to our topic of evictions that often fall within the harshest winter months and the constitutional responsibilities of the City of Cape Town. 


Scottsdene evictees living on the sidewalk - Image from Facebook


Steen Villa Not an Isolated Case
The case of the recent Steen Villa Evictions is by no means an isolated incident and this round of evictions is not the first at Steen Villa.
During previous evictions which took place in mid-August 2017, Also Winter, which were interdicted and after which residents could move back into their units, the notorious Red Ants had damaged many of the residents belongings while many items had simply gone 'missing'  and they virtually still have no legal recourse to recover their losses. 
The biggest loss however was that of the life of a newborn infant. (See video further below). 

Now while social media is awash with heart-wrenching images of old and frail residents and others with small children having been evicted from Steen Villa, they are by no measure the first to have this fate befall them.
There are currently people who after being evicted are living on the sidewalks of a “Social Housing” development in Scottsdene Kraaifontein.
 

Scottsdene evictees living on the sidewalk - Image from Facebook



Admittedly Bruinou.com does not have the exact details around the Scottsdene evictions but the point is that they have been evicted without the benefit of being offered suitable alternative accommodation which we will demonstrate further below is a constitutional right afforded to evictees.
In 2016 there was the case of the 32 Evicted Eerste River mothers left Destitute on Rainy Mothers Day when they were evicted by the WC Provincial Government with no alternatives being offered by the City of Cape Town.
 

Right now we are in the midst of heavy storm weather conditions and the shelter provided by makeshift plastic huts and tents which the evictees have erected for themselves is dangerously inadequate especially when considering that among both the groups of Steen Villa and Scottsdene evictees are elderly persons and young children.
According to a reliable source close to Bruinou.com on Wednesday night two children were in serious danger of suffering from hypothermia due to the cold wet conditions and risked death if neighbours living opposite the Steen Villa complex had not taken them in.


Makeshift plastic huts and tents which Steen Villa evictees have erected for themselves - Image by Daniel Frans



The Steen Villa development is state-subsidised which should allow SOHCO to charge rents that are below market rates.
In 2017 rents at Steen Villa ranged from R1000 to R3150 per month.
However, when what is touted as "Affordable Housing" over time becomes unaffordable due to rental increases that reflect 'market prices' then obviously there is absolutely no intention to any longer accommodate the same poor people who those projects were meant to benefit.  



Steen Villa Rent Hikes Unaffordable
“Unreasonably High Rent Increases” & Loss of Income are among the reasons some Steen Villa residents are giving for defaulting on rent.
Many residents and particularly those who have now been evicted complain that they have been slapped with exorbitantly high rent increases over the period that they have lived at Steen Villa.
One of those who is on the list of Steen Villa evictees, Gill Adams, 30, who shared a flat with her mother, a pensioner, told Cape Argus in February 2018 that since moving in six years ago, their rent had increased by R1700 to R3500.
 

We decided to do some Simple Maths...
Anyone with average calculator skills can work out that for Gill Adams from a base of R1800 the compounded annual increase over 6 years is over 10% which is much more than the Inflation Rate over the past 6 years which averages out to 5.65 for the period.
When one considers that average wage increases for those who are in full-time employment seldom exceeds one or two percentage points above the Inflation Rate then it starts to eat more and more into their disposable incomes.  
It's even worse for those who receive state pensions or any form of grant due to their inability to work as they have continually received annual increases Below Inflation Rates, so that even if rent increased annually at the prevailing Inflation Rate, very few of the residents will be able to cope with the increases in rent.

Someone Please Help Us Understand...  
Is ‘Affordable Social Housing Development’ by definition not a self-explanatory term?  
These increases in rent at over 10% per annum can only result in the poor becoming much poorer.

What is also disconcerting is that there are obviously 'Means Tests' done when people are approved to move into these units (which we presume determines how rent is set). Certainly if these assessments were to be done annually it should result in an adaptation to the rent increase which any particular resident is faced with.



Evictees Constitutional Rights
What makes these evictions especially brutal is the fact that in many cases there are no suitable alternative accommodation options provided and in the few cases where there actually are, it is hardly a 'suitable alternative'.
In Cape Town when people are 'relocated' after they have been evicted it is in all likelihood to a place like Blikkiesdorp or Wolwerivier which are nothing else but concentration camps called "Temporary Relocation Areas".
Blikkiesdorp in winter as you can read in our article "Winter Rain Brings Political Storm in a Blikkie" is not much better than the makeshift shelters Steen Villa evictees have erected for themselves just outside the complex.


Makeshift shelters being erected by Steen Villa evictees a day before the storm hit Cape Town - Image by Daniel Frans



Almost every case across SA where there are mass evictions in which municipalities are stakeholders high courts have held those municipalities responsible for providing suitable alternative accommodation for the evictees.


On 8 June 2017 in a landmark case the Constitutional Court ruled that 'Judges can no longer lawfully order evictions that leave people homeless'.
There is an obligation particularly on Municipalities to provide adequate emergency accommodation to evictees, and that is besides the myriad of other legal requirements that need to be fulfilled before an eviction order can be granted.

Granted that the Steen Villa residents have not suddenly out of the blue been evicted and that the processes have been going on for at least a year, the question remains; Why were they chucked out into the bitter winter cold without any assistance from the City of Cape Town which clearly is a major stakeholder in the system of "Affordable Social Housing"?
 

“Courts must be alive to the risk of homelessness and the issue of joining the local authority to discharge any duties it may have. All of this may appear unduly burdensome but it is necessary if one has regard to the fundamental importance that a person’s home has to the realisation of almost all human rights,” the Concourt said in its ruling.

Why then is SOHCO and by extension the City of Cape Town hell-bound on flouting a Constitutional Court ruling by putting people out on the streets at the mercy of Cape Town's cold harsh and very wet winter weather?


WATCH My home is Steenvilla Ramonas' full story Steenvilla Red Ants Eviction



Please keep an eye on our Bruinou.com Facebook Page and associated group pages for upcoming details on how you can contribute towards making things a little bit easier for those in both Steen Villa and Scottsdene who have been affected by the evictions.