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Woodstock families given 8 months to vacate homes

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Families living in a block of apartments on Albert Road, Woodstock, have eight months to vacate the property, Cape Town Magistrate Paul Jethro ruled on July 10, GroundUp reports.

Resident Faghmeeda Desiree Ling says she has lived on Albert Road her whole life and now she has to move because she cannot afford the high rent in Woodstock or its surrounding areas.

Ling is among 82 people, aged between eight months and 75, ordered to vacate the property by March 9, 2019. They were originally served with eviction notices (some in March, some in April 2017) to vacate their homes by the end of May 2017 for not paying rent.

Occupants accused the landlord, Ahmed Patel, of neglecting to maintain the property after it was badly damaged in two fire incidents. The landlord’s lawyer, Ahmed Ebrahim, has disputed the tenants’ claims.

The City of Cape Town was cited in the case to assist with providing emergency housing for the group. The City offered to house the families at its Wolwerivier temporary relocation area, but the residents have repeatedly refused to move there.

Magistrate Paul Jethro acknowledged that one of the key factors in this eviction was the gentrification of Woodstock.

“The [families] have been living in the Woodstock area for decades and have formed a community within a community. Woodstock is undergoing a process of ‘gentrification’ whereby poorer members of the community are evicted and forced from the area in order to make room for the middle-to upper-class.”

Most of the Albert Road occupants fall within the lower-income bracket. The highest monthly household income among them is about R8 000.

No right to housing at location of choice

Jethro said he believed the residents who had testified about their battles to get help or advice from the City after first receiving their eviction notices.

“I urge the City not to display this behaviour in future towards people who need their friendly and wise assistance,” he said.

Jethro said that if the occupants failed to vacate by March 9, the sheriff would be sent on March 12, 2019, to forcefully evict them.

He ordered the legal representatives of the City and the residents to assist the families to apply for social housing. These applications should be submitted by no later than August 9, he said.

The court also ruled that the residents had no right or entitlement to alternative accommodation (offered by the City) at a location of their choice.

Jethro ordered all the parties to pay the costs of their own applications.

Significant adjustments

Speaking to GroundUp last week, Ling said: “I was overwhelmed with emotions. I cried for a while and now I worry a lot. Every night I lay in bed and worry about where the heck I will go with my children. I understand that we have to go but don’t throw me to the gutters in Wolwerivier. We are just asking for simple, decent housing.”

Ling has been on the City housing waiting list since 2004. She is a single parent of three and relies on her salary as a Grade R teacher to make ends meet.

In his ruling, Jethro found that while Ling was struggling to find affordable housing “in areas of her choice” it did not mean that she would be rendered homeless by the eviction.

But Ling says moving out of Woodstock would be a significant adjustment for the occupants and increased transport costs for those who attend school or work in the area.

Ling says some people were considering moving into the old Woodstock Hospital, which Reclaim the City had occupied and renamed the Cissie Gool House in March 2017.

While Jethro granted the eviction order, his ruling makes it clear that the City needed to do more to “improve the lot of the poor, especially in the domain of housing”.

[Source: News24]
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