City of Cape Town calls off Maynard Street house auction

Ndifuna Ukwazi welcomes decision

By Mary-Anne Gontsana

23 November 2023

A Cape Town family whose Maynard Street home was scheduled to be auctioned off today can breathe a sigh of relief after the City of Cape Town called off the sale last week. Archive photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana

A Cape Town family whose Maynard Street home was scheduled to be auctioned off today can breathe a sigh of relief after the City of Cape Town called off the sale at the eleventh hour. But this is only temporary, the City says.

Earlier this month, GroundUp reported that Tamara-Kay McLachlan and three other family members have been living in her late mother’s Maynard Street home for the last 37 years.

On 11 October a notice was delivered to their council-owned home near the city centre which her elderly stepfather, who was home at the time, had signed on her behalf. He apparently did not understand what he was signing.

The “Notice of intention to sell city-owned property” stated that McLachlan’s tenancy and lease “might be terminated due to the City’s intention to sell the premises”. An auction to sell the house had been scheduled for 23 November.

The family was also worried about an excessive rental bill of about R200,000 that they had incurred over the years.

McLachlan’s home was one of two council properties set for auction this week. The other property, 21 Maynard Street, is next door to McLachlan but it is unoccupied. This property is still up for auction on Thursday.

Mayco Member for Economic Growth, James Vos had initially told GroundUp that the properties were part of a “de-proclaimed road scheme and are not required for municipal purposes”.

But the City made a surprising u-turn when, on 17 November, it announced that the auction of McLachlan’s home had been temporarily halted.

Vos said the property was “currently occupied, with rental arrears in excess of R200,000. The City has been engaging with the tenants since 2016, informing them that the City is considering the disposal of the properties in Maynard Street”.

Vos noted that the City’s lease agreement had been with McLachlan’s mother who has since passed away. “The current occupants have no lease with the City nor claim to remain. The City has been issuing municipal account invoices for this property.”

Vos said writing off the arrears owed for rent would be “considered as part of the City’s standard debt collection procedures”.

Ndifuna Ukwazi, in a statement, welcomed the City’s decision to call off the auction. “It is crucial not to underestimate the significance of public housing. A home is more than a financial commodity; it is a fundamental human right that should be accessible to everyone.”

“Unfortunately, housing in Cape Town is predominantly treated as a financial asset rather than a societal good, especially in well-located areas,” the organisation stated.

“The sale of well-located public housing would represent a considerable loss, jeopardising the preservation of inclusivity in an inner-city that is already exclusive and unaffordable.”

Ndifuna Ukwazi attorney Jonty Cogger said, “We are often approached by the public who are in distressing circumstances and in urgent need of our assistance. It is wonderful to hear that the City has called off the auction. We look forward to more fruitful engagement with the City to ensure that it preserves as much public housing as possible.”

McLachlan, who is a self-employed nail technician, told GroundUp that the temporary stay of the auction was a big relief. She said she has not been able to work since receiving the notice in October due to stress. It, however, is still not clear how long the family will be allowed to stay in the home.