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Monday Jan 21, 2013

Durban property owners up in arms over decay of Bluff

Property owners in Durban's Bluff have had enough of slumlords, derelict properties and seedy neighbours.

Their once leafy suburb is slowly descending into one of drugs, prostitution and alcoholism and now they want eThekwini municipality to devalue their properties.

This house in Ivernia Rd allegedly belongs to a 'slumlord' who charges squatters hundreds of rands in rent.

"Why should we be paying such high rates for our properties when we cannot sell them at their present value because no one will pay much to come and live next to a slum building? The city doesn't want to do anything so why should we pay high rates for poor service?" asked Ivor Aylward, chairman of the Bluff Ratepayers Association.

Aylward said the Bluff, a prime suburb to the south of Durban, was slowly deteriorating into one of drugs, prostitution and alcoholism.

"There are homes that were once in good condition that have been bought, in many cases by one particular person, and allowed to deteriorate to a terrible condition, and no one, not even the council, wants to take serious action to stop the rot," said Aylward.

Resident Peter Perfect, who has lived in Hilltop Road on the Bluff for 30 years, has tried to sell his home at its market value.

"I am trying to sell my house, but even I wouldn't want to buy here," he said, referring to the house opposite him, which has for the past 10 years been the bane of the neighbourhood.

The house in question, number 20, has become a derelict building, housing squatters under unhygienic conditions with no running water or power.

"They have parties and they have knocked down my wall five times," said Perfect.

His neighbour, Najan Baijnath, said he had been trying to sell his house for several years, but that there was no interest.

"No agent will even come and have a look here. I don't know what my options are at the moment, because I don't want to invest further in my home to fix it up, but I have to stay here as I can't find a buyer," he said, adding that his home had been burgled three times in the past three years.

Also referring to house number 20, Baijnath said: "You name it, it happens there, there is no peace and quiet."

Mantsia Maema lives in a rundown building just of Ivernia Rd. The building has no electricity..

Residents have now signed a letter to get eThekwini municipality to devalue their properties. The letter further urges the property owners to write to the city's real-estate department to request that their property valuation be adjusted downward as a result of the negative impact of conditions, in this letter's case, specifically regarding 20 Hilltop Road.

A message was left for the owner of the property, Mr Watkins, who did not return the call.

Further down Bluff Road, in the Fynnlands area, several houses have become decrepit buildings, with no power or running water. A heavy stench of sewage lingers in the air.

Squatters have invaded a building, and allegedly run a shebeen and deal in drugs from it.

In an adjacent block, it is alleged that prostitution is thriving due to the number of truck drivers in a nearby truck yard.

Maurice van Aarde, who lives across the road from such a building in Ivernia Road, said the situation was unbearable.

"You can't even leave your doors or windows open because of the number of flies that come from the building across the road. The sewage smell is also terrible especially in the hot weather we've been having lately. I hope the council sorts the problem out because it is not healthy," said Van Aarde.

Mantsia Maema lives in the building in question, and said none of the 17 people who live in the 10 rooms on the property wish to live in such conditions.

"You can see we have baby clothes on the line, we don't want our children to live like this and get sick, but we have nowhere else to go," she said.

Maema said Abubaker Motala owned the property and charged them R750 per room.

"We got letters to move out by the end of December, but no one moved because we have nowhere else to go," she said.

Motala said he had been struggling for the past six years to get the squatters to move, but to no avail.

"It's not my responsibility to provide them with alternative housing, it is the council's. I pay my rates," he said, promising to reply in detail via e-mail. He failed to do so.

The councillor for the area, Duncan du Bois, said problem buildings have been increasing on the Bluff.

"We are just one example; this is happening in areas all over eThekwini. It's what I call a slow puncture - if the city does not address this problem it threatens the lifeblood of the city, which is the rates base. Residents can't live under these conditions," said Du Bois.

The Independent on Saturday

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