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Monday May 30, 2016

Gentrification 'threat' to District Six

Working class residents in District Six's Springfield Terrace flats feel threatened, claiming estate agents are "shopping for properties" and pushing for the sale of their homes which will result in a wave of gentrification on central Cape Town's doorstep.

Springfield Terraces in Zonnebloem where residents say estate agents are lining up outside their doors to buy their apartments.

An estate agent, working in the area, has confirmed buyers are interested in the property, with one developer even offering to to buy one of the nine blocks.

Mary Wentzel, born in District Six almost 60 years ago, lived through apartheid removals when she was a child. Twenty-nine years later she returned and bought a flat in District Six. Now she feels like estate agents and property developers are pressuring residents to move and make way for buyers looking for properties near the city.

"A few weeks ago an estate agent phoned and asked if I wanted to sell my house. I said no the rand is not good. And he offered to pay me in dollars," said Wentzel.

"Estate agents were around here asking people if they want to sell. One agent came to my house and asked if I wanted to sell. I said no. Then he asked me who else he could go to. I said I don't know... Mostly foreigners have already bought apartments and they rent them out."

And she is aware of gentrification in other areas near the city: the Bo-Kaap, Salt River and lower Woodstock.

"I heard about what happened in Bo-Kaap. Rich people buy these houses and then how much will our children have to pay if they want the houses back?"

"This area is for our people. District Six was for our people. But people are unemployed and they jump to sell. They are looking for money. But R1 million is not a lot of money.

"I will never sell this house. I'm used to living close to town. It will be a huge inconvenience to move. I will stay here until I die."

Another resident, Berenice Rasdien, said she wanted to sell her apartment but would do so only if she found an alternative ground-floor replacement in the area.

"I've got arthritis in both knees and I cannot do the stairs anymore. That's the only reason I'm selling. But I don't want to move out of my area. I will only sell if I can buy another place in Springfield Terrace," she said.

Rasdien's "for sale" signs went up after an estate agent came to their area. She said since the start of this year four of her neighbours had sold and moved out.

Rasdien said new buyers were predominantly wealthy and foreign. "People do sell because buyers are investing in the area. Opposite the road from me a flat was sold. Semidetached houses have also been sold. It's all in this year."

"A German bought a flat. Three other properties were also bought by white people. It's mostly foreigners who are buying and they rent them out."

Rasdien said quite a few neighbours – including herself – were resisting leaving. "Agents are forever here. They are very visible in our area. They shop for properties," she said.

"I don't see the reason why people should sell. They should stay in the city. It's nice. I love my neighbours.

"We can still look out for each other. And we still walk to town and Woodstock."

Jarette Petzer, branch manager of Beyers Realty Group in Woodstock, said buyers were interested in Springfield Terrace "because of its proximity to the city" and "stock is limited".

Beyers has a property for sale in the area and also handles a R9 000 rental.

"There's a huge demand for certain parts, like Springfield Terrace and Justice Walk. There is money to be made. Buyers are interested," said Petzer.

Beyers is selling properties worth millions inWoodstock, Salt River and Observatory "which is developing faster" than District Six said Petzer.

"The moment we get some decent traction we will push harder in that area (District Six). It is getting a lot of attention because it looks European. It's near the city and has harbour views."

'We can't afford to live here anymore'

For almost three decades Faiq Rabin has owned a two-bedroom flat in one of the nine apartment blocks that are Springfield Terrace.

Rabin was born in District Six and he and his family evicted under apartheid's Group Areas Act.

Years later when Springfield Terrace apartments were built, he moved back to the area he once called home.

"I am from central Cape Town and always wanted to live here. Twenty-three years ago I bought a flat here. This is where we want to be and where we want to die. This is our place.

"The only thing is that it's becoming expensive to stay here. Foreigners are buying in our area and our municipal accounts are going up. These places were built for the lower income group. Now 20 years down the line it doesn't work that way. With the high rates, we can't survive.

"You can imagine a low-income person whose expenses became double, how does he manage? I am concerned that our people can't stay here anymore. It won't be long before we will be moved out.

"With the Group Areas Act they (apartheid government) chucked us out. With this, people don't realise what is happening. Where will we stay if we can't afford to live in our houses? We are locals and we can't afford to stay here."

Rabin is chairman of a body corporate that manages two of the Springfield Terrace blocks. He said estate agents had approached various flat owners about selling their properties.

Rabin said new buyers are "people who normally don't stay here".

"We bought to stay here because of the community. People who are buying here now, are doing it for financial gains. They have no interest in the flat."

Rabin said the area's demographic was changing and would likely no longer remain a predominantly working class coloured."At the end of they day they are moving in the higher income group and the lower income group are being moved out. We invested here, but now when we are older we can't stay here.

"They build without consultation of our people. We are getting nothing out of it."

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)

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