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Actonville council tenants fear eviction amid mounting debt

Residents allege that rent calculated according to their income is sinking them further in debt.

Retired, retrenched, sick and aged.

Their faces, circumstances and backgrounds are all different yet their desperation to hold on to their homes while quashing rising debt is the same.

Tenants from the 11 council-owned flats in Actonville staged a protest outside the Actonville Library on April 3 to express their dissatisfaction regarding rising rental costs, mounting debt, lack of maintenance and electricity cuts.

The flats, named Primrose Court, towered behind them as the residents repeated chants, calling for leases to be abolished and debt to be scrapped.

These individuals occupy the 538 CoE rental stock units in Delhi, Karachi, Agra, Aligarh, Ajmery, Bangalore, Lahore, Aloe, Azalea, Flora and Primrose courts.

Units include bachelor, single and double units as well as one to three-bedroom units.

Residents of the Actonville municipal flats, staged a protest outside the Actonville Library demanding that rent calculated according to income be scrapped.

Rochell Crestwell grew up in Flora Court and her family has lived in these flats for more than four decades.

“When my parents died, I applied to have the lease transferred to me yet the metro refused, blocking every application,” said the mother of three.

“Despite paying what I could towards rent, the metro proceeded to block my electricity meter in 2021. They say I am an illegal tenant and rumours are circulating that we are on an eviction list, which will be implemented after the election.

“I have completed numerous applications yet the outcome remains the same. I am not asking to live free. All I want is documentation stating that my children and I can continue living in the only home we’ve ever known.”

The inside of Primrose Court.

Election promises
Veegee Pillay has lived in Karachi Court since 1976, where they occupy a three-bedroom unit.

“These flats are rotten to the core,” said Pillay.

“I cannot remember when last any maintenance was done. The water pipes are leaking from the top floor to the bottom causing mould and fungus to grow inside the units. The walls are rotten and it is affecting our health,” said Pillay, who applied for RDP housing in 1996.

“Two years later, we were told that those who have been living in the flats for more than 20 years will receive the title deeds for their units, thus finally giving us ownership of our homes. Nothing has ever come of it. Our rent has been increased exponentially – from R400 to the current R2 600 – and it continues to rise.”

Veegee Pillay of Karachi Court points to mould and fungus growing inside her flat. This is caused due to leaking pipes.

Ajmery Court resident Buhle Letageng explained that in 2008 the CoE passed a resolution that required tenants to pay market-related rentals.

Clutching a schedule 26 document issued by the CoE dated May 2017, Letageng points to a paragraph that reads:
“This schedule is in line with the policy and is intended to regulate and provide guidelines on the management of the council-owned public rental housing stock and tenants. Should tenants become indigent during the currency of their lease they will have access to the normal benefits associated with the Council’s Policy for the indigent such as affordable rental accommodation.”

The document further details the 2017/2018 rental tariffs with Ajmery Court being R260 per month for a two-bedroom unit.

Accompanying the document is a statement issued by then Ward 29 councillor and Member of Parliament Hassena Ismail, which read:
“Opposition has been fighting since 2008 for market-related rentals to be scrapped. Many residents living in council-owned properties are poor and do not have a steady income. As a result, some residents have been evicted from their homes.

“Due to continuous efforts, tenants will no longer be required to pay market-related rentals from July 1, 2017.
“We also exerted pressure on the municipality to ensure that council owned flats are upgraded and maintained.”

Buhle Letageng of Ajmery Court says the CoE has back-tracked on a 2017 resolution which set rent collection on economic rates.

Residents however claim that their rent has from 2021 been calculated according to their income.

Agnus Musale shares her two-bedroom Aligarh Court unit with her grandchildren.

“When applying for the renewal of our leases we need to submit all the relevant documentation including our grant statements,” said Musale.

“I was retrenched in 2020 and receive a R1 100 government pension as well as child care grants for my grandchildren.

“My rent is R3 400, how am I supposed to stay up to date with these payments and feed my family? They have no mercy.”

No comment has been received from the metro at the time of publication.

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