Steenvilla social housing residents protest evictions

Company says some households haven’t paid rent for a year, while residents say they can’t afford increases

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Photo of person watching burning barricade
A resident watches as police try to create calm and stop a protest in Military Road. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Residents from the social housing complex Steenvilla in Steenberg protested against an attempted mass eviction on Monday morning. Dozens of residents burnt rubbish bins and tyres in the road outside the complex, blaming increased rentals for them falling into arrears.

Residents told GroundUp that at about 8am trucks entered the property along with the sheriff, armed men and social workers, attempting to carry out an eviction of 22 families. Residents prevented the eviction from being carried out and took their protest into Military Road, which runs alongside the complex. They burnt a barricade across the road, closing it to traffic until the afternoon. Steenvilla is run by Sohco Property Investments, a non-profit company.

After a couple of hours and failed negotiations between the South African Police Service (SAPS) and residents, police forced the residents back into the complex by firing a stun grenade. A number of residents responded by throwing rocks.

“How on earth can you put out old people? What the hell is wrong with these people? These homes are built for low-income earners,” said Tina Schoor, a resident and leader in the community.

While Schoor and many of the residents protesting this morning are not facing immediate eviction, they are fearful that they too will be served with eviction orders as many of them are in arrears. “Rentals must be reduced. Provincial government must provide our people with homes,” she said.

A number of residents who said that the current rentals vary from about R1,000 to over R3,000 per month, depending on the size of the unit. GroundUp has previously written about the increased rentals.

Steenvilla is a social housing project in Cape Town’s south peninsula. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks 

Schoor implored the government to provide land for those who couldn’t afford the rentals, so that they could build their own houses.

“Most [of us] have been here for seven years. We come from backyards,” said Schoor. She said that there are a number of applications in the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court for the eviction of other residents who are also in arrears.

The CEO of Sohco, Heather Maxwell said in a statement today that during March 2016 a small group of tenants stopped paying rent. “After attempts to resolve the situation were unsuccessful, Sohco initiated eviction proceedings in court during 2016, with eviction orders eventually being granted in March 2017 and May 2017. 22 evictions were planned by the Sheriff of the Court [for Monday]. The tenants being evicted haven’t paid rent for over 12 months, during which all other attempts to resolve the situation and avoid eviction proceedings were unsuccessful.”

Maxwell said that the evictions have now been postponed to a later date.

Pensioner Eunice Trompetter was meant to be evicted on Monday. “They came to me [on Monday] morning. He said I must pack my valuables and they will pack other stuff.” Trompetter said that child welfare was waiting outside “on standby”. She said that she receives a SASSA pension of R1,500 and her rent is also about R1,500. She said that there are currently six people living in her one bedroomed flat – three adults and three children. Trompetter said that neither of the other two adults are employed. She said that she still pays a portion of her rent every month but cannot pay the full amount.

Nozuko Zalazala was also meant to be evicted this morning. She said that she is in arrears of R16,000 and her rent is currently R1,000 per months for her bachelor flat.

“Unemployment is a big thing here,” said Samantha Marie, who is unemployed. When Marie first moved in about seven years ago she said she was paying about R800 a month and is now paying R1,500 for her one bedroom. Her children sleep in the dining room.

Another resident who is in arrears said that she is a single parent and works as a domestic worker. She said that she battles to afford to purchase food and that her family eats cabbage and pap to survive.

Resident Tina Schoor explains why they are protesting. Video: Ashraf Hendricks

TOPICS:  Housing

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