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Wednesday Jan 29, 2014

Housing institutions struggle

Social housing institutions in South Africa are facing enormous challenges in meeting tenants' demands.

First, the demands for adequate, habitable and affordable rental accommodation and, after tenants have settled in, demands for disclosure of the actual money the institutions receive from the government, for transparency and accountability.

The institutions receive a subsidy for the building they own so that they can provide reasonable rental for upper-end low-income earners.

Most institutions are thorough in providing detailed information to the prospective tenants about the rental accommodation they offer and the implications of the lease contract.

They explain the processes between tenant and landlord in the event that maintenance and repairs become necessary, what happens in the event of rental disputes or failure to pay rental, management procedure and other tenancy related matters. A new tenant is taken through all the requirements, including the lease agreement, and signs off a check list.

Social housing institutions are fairly new when compared to similar institutions in other countries, but these are becoming unpopular over mass evictions in South Africa.

Often, the tenants withhold rentals declaring a dispute about maintenance, subsidy and ownership rights.

As for subsidy, despite the introductory workshops with new tenants and information leaflets clarifying the institutional subsidy, tenants eventually claim that they were promised ownership of their flats.

Others believe that the rental paid should result in them taking ownership.

Madulamoho Housing Association in Johannesburg is one of several accredited social housing providers in terms of the Social Housing Act 16 of 2008 that caters for low-income and first-time tenants.

In 2012, the association failed to attach and remove the personal belongings of tenants of Elkero House in Hillbrow who had defaulted on their rentals. The leases were subsequently cancelled, but the tenants refused to vacate the premises.

The matter was taken to the South Gauteng High Court for the eviction of Masibi Gaitsewe and 14 other tenants (Madulamoho Housing Association v Masibi Gaitsewe and Others (35151 /2012) (2013) ZAGPJHC 49 (11 March 2013).

Some 45 families had already been evicted prior to this case. The court found that the association had charged different rentals for tenants with similar income (R2 500 a month) and collected a lower rental for a tenant who earned R5 000 amonth when compared to tenants who earned R2 500.

It also failed to disclose information to tenants in accordance with the requirements of the Social Housing Act such as the electricity charges that varied between tenants for a communal meter.

The court postponed the application and ordered that a mediator be appointed to resolve the stand-off between the parties.

The court also directed that the Social Housing Regulatory Authority and the municipality be involved to resolve the rental dispute and the extended social grant packages applicable to the tenants.

In Durban, 232 families were evicted in November last year from River View, which is owned by the Social Housing Company (Sohco).

The tenants' appeal to the Constitutional Court was rejected and during the evictions that followed, the sheriff accompanied by the police faced stiff resistance.

Two occupants were injured, suffering burns to their backs when they together with other occupants protested at the evictions.

Sohco also succeeded in the evictions of 96 occupants of Portview (Albert Park) and Valleyview (Hillary).

Social housing institutions are struggling to sustain their projects and to pay staff and creditors because of mounting legal costs and rental boycotts.

The courts have taken due notice of the predicament of the institutions, and they ought to.

On the other hand, the plight of the evictees genuinely in need of housing and their financial circumstances are relegated to the fringes of society.

It is time that politicians relook at the viability of the institutions; do more to meet housing demands, much more to address the growing discontent of the poor and seriously take charge to protect the poor from police brutality.

Dr Sayed Iqbal Mohamed
Chairman, Organisation of Civic Rights
Tenant Matters
Daily News
For tenants' rights' advice, contact Loshni Naidoo or Pretty Gumede at 031 304 6451.

    
 

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