Cape Town city centre tenants in tears as municipality auctions their homes

City says the Maynard Street homes are part of a de-proclaimed road scheme and are no longer required for municipal purposes

By Mary-Anne Gontsana

6 November 2023

Tenants living at this council-owned home in Maynard Street home near Cape Town city centre say they are distraught that the City will be auctioning their home later this month. Photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana

Tamara-Kay McLachlan has been living in her late mother’s Maynard Street home for the last 37 years, but the property will soon be auctioned off by the City of Cape Town.

On 11 October, McLachlan said a notice was delivered to their home in Cape Town’s city centre which her elderly stepfather, who was home at the time, had signed on her behalf.

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”.

McLachlan, angry and crying during our interview, asked, “Why us? There is literally a vacant house right next to us, why can’t they take that one? We have been living here for 37 years, how are we supposed to just pack up and leave? Where will we go?”.

“This was not even communicated to us prior to the delivery of the notice. I don’t understand what is happening … They are doing to us what was done to the people of District Six,” said McLachlan.

The City’s Mayco Member for Economic Growth, James Vos, confirmed that two properties in Maynard Street had been listed for auctioning on 23 November.

“The properties form part of a de-proclaimed road scheme and are not required for municipal purposes. A notice of intention to sell the property was hand delivered on 11 October and signed by the occupant,” said Vos.

Asked whether alternative accommodation would be offered by the city, Vos said alternative accommodation would be considered if it was required.

But McLachlan, who lives with three other family members, said she fears they will be relocated far from the city centre to communities like Pelican Park or Blikkiesdorp.

According to McLachlan, her mother was paying rates, taxes and rent at the property. But as of 2019, after not receiving any invoices, they stopped paying rent. Because of this, she said, their outstanding fees accumulated and according to a recent bill, the household’s rental arrears total is about R200,000.

Jonty Cogger, attorney at Ndifuna Ukwazi said they are concerned that public housing stock in well-located areas of the city is being sold.

“Once sold, it is lost to the market, available to the highest bidder, which inevitably excludes the 75% of Capetonians who earn less than R22,000 a month. It really does show that the City lacks long-term commitment to affordable housing,” he said.

Cogger questioned how the City could justify selling its own housing stock “in the midst of a housing crisis where 650,000 people are waiting for housing”.

In 2016, GroundUp first reported on tenants in Maynard Street who were faced with uncertainty after coming across a notice in local newspapers stating that their City-owned properties were “proposed for disposal”.

According to the City’s website, several prime properties aimed at “boosting the economy” are on offer as the city prepares to hold its last property auction of 2023.

McLachlan’s four bedroom home has already been put on an auction website, which provides details of the specifics of the home, with photographs and a countdown clock for when the auction would begin.