SIDWELL FLAT DWELLERS SHORT CHANGED

The Eastern Cape Department of Housing has left at least 99 low-income families who live in a high density housing complex in Sidwell in Port Elizabeth short changed and unsure about their future due to a bureaucratic bumbling and bottlenecks.

The complex is one of the biggest in Port Elizabeth consisting of 12 flat and maisonette blocks. The new rentals vary. In the Impala-block rent has increased from R540 per month to R841 per month for a unit of 89m².

The department has unilaterally increased the rent for the first time in seven years instead of reasonable annual rental adjustments. It is concerning that levies, rates and maintenance are included in the increase. Such costs are usually borne by the owner of the flats, in this case the department. It says it will only be liable for geyser maintenance which in most cases is insured under the construction of the building.

Having spoken to residents from Elwe, Maroela and Kudu they say that they were given letters informing them of the rent increases but that their rental contracts were not amended. The department is in fact abrogating its responsibilities towards these occupiers by copping out of future financial commitment to the maintenance of these units.

Of further concern is that the occupiers now have to pay rent increases and are expected to pay for maintenance on units they do not legally own.

It is clear that the department is not aware of what it is doing to try and accommodate some occupiers to purchase their units.

At a public meeting I attended at the Pieter Rademeyer Hall on 9 May 2011 angry residents said they had received letters in 2005 as part of the Extended Benefit Discount Scheme (EEDBS) to buy the units from the department.

However, a letter in my possession from the department states that they have no knowledge of these flats being offered for purchase.

It would appear that there has been gross mismanagement by the department of these flats.

I will be meeting officials from the department to discuss this issue to try and facilitate a better rental deal.

I will be investigating with the department how fast tracking of unit ownership can take place for these residents.

Furthermore the DA calls on the MEC for Human Settlements, Helen August-Sauls to investigate the unhurried establishment of the Rental Tribunal, which was advertised last year and which was means to deal with issues around the distribution of EEDBS housing.