Gateway sub-letting set to continue

25 09 2009

Housing MEC awaits report before action is taken against residents

September 21, 2009 Edition 2
BRONWYNNE JOOSTE –
Cape Argus

WESTERN Cape Housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela says he will know in the next month how many residents are sub-letting their government- subsidised N2 Gateway homes.

The department will then decide which measures to take against owners who are renting out their homes.In the interim, he says there is nothing his department can do to stop the practice of sub-letting among N2 Gateway residents.

Ashraf Cassiem, of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, said he had heard of nine cases of people being evicted from government- subsidised houses in the past three weeks, in Delft alone.

“Unfortunately these things will continue to happen, that is the case,” said Madikizela.

The department was currently unsure of how widespread the letting of these homes was, and whether it was only taking place in Du Noon, Khayelitsha and Delft.

But Cassiem said sub-letting was happening across the Western Cape.

In many cases people were being evicted without a court order or an eviction notice, he claimed.

Madikizela said the provincial department was in talks with the new agency managing the N2 Gateway project, the Housing Development Agency (HDA), which took over from state-owned housing company Thubelisha Homes in April after it went bankrupt.

Most residents have stopped paying rent at the government showcase housing project. The Cape Argus reported recently that Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) slammed government officials for “deliberately misleading” the committee about structural defects in the N2 Gateway project homes.

Scopa members, with Parliament’s housing portfolio committee, visited the community in Langa earlier this month to check whether defects, including exposed drain pipes and cracks in walls and floors, had been fixed.

Because of the defects, the N2 Gateway Tenants’ Association said it started its rent boycott in 2007, in the hope that the government would address its concerns.

Madikizela said he understood that residents were unable to meet the rental payments.

“The reasons we have (for them) sub-letting is that the rent is too high. Department officials are busy getting information, because we really need to understand the numbers,” he said.

Madikizela revealed that the housing department had a suggested approach to tackling the sensitive issue, but would not disclose details until discussions with the HDA were complete.

The department and the agency had already met to talk over other issues, including the payment of contractors who performed work while Thubelisha managed the embattled housing project. They were also discussing the unblocking of certain stalled projects.

“We are having talks with them. It is not that nothing is happening. But I can’t speculate and say when we will be discussing that issue.”

Cassiem said he understood that recipients of the homes were not allowed to let them out until they had lived there for at least eight years.

However, Dr Clarence Tshitereke, head of communications for the national Department of Human Settlements, said the regulations governing sub-letting were unclear.

“They are not allowed to sell the house before five years, but the restrictions for sub-letting are not clear,” he said.

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