Salt River has seen its fair share of developments, upgrades and facelifts over the years, but several derelict buildings continue to blight the neighbourhood and remain a huge source of frustration for residents who claim they attract dumping, crime, health hazards and prostitution, among other woes.
On the corners of Fenton Road and Pope Street is a property that has stood empty for years, and residents have blamed it for a rat infestation in the area.
Naasiegh Adams says he has lodged many complaints about the building with the City, sometimes including pictures and videos.
“Nothing happened for years, the owners are not even from here, but our people were forced to live with the problems of this property,” he said.
He has chased after illegal dumpers in the early hours of the morning. “It was not my duty, but I didn’t have a choice, because people dump all sorts of things on this ground. When that happens, you must see all the rats running around this property and eventually into our homes.”
There was also the time when Mr Adams and some other residents cleared a shack that someone had put up in the corner of the property.
These days the property is fenced and there’s a large sign warning people not to dump as they are being watched on camera, but it’s still causing a headache for the community.
“Something must happen to it, as it cannot stand open like this,” said Mr Adams. “It causes problems for the people around here. It looks ugly and brings down our property values. The owners must come and do something. We are not interested in their problems, because their problem is an even bigger problem for us as residents.”
In Tennyson Road, there’s another problem property which residents say is both illegally occupied and a fire hazard. Nearby residents, who didn’t want their names published, said the bright orange house had also attracted its fair share of crime.
“This property has been up for sale, on auction, but nobody ever buys it. This house has been completely trashed, was on fire and even had families living illegally inside of it, but still, it remains standing. The only thing that did happen is that it was boarded up, but that won’t last very long,” a resident said.
The resident said the police had raided the house several times, seldom coming away empty-handed.
“We as the residents must live with problems like these. If you actually do some homework into these properties and go find the owners, they are living in some luxury house somewhere outside Cape Town. It’s very unfair, and the saddest part is that we can only lodge complaints and hope for the best,” the resident said.
In Salt River’s Main Road, on the corner of Alfred Road, is a former shop which from a distance looks ordinary enough, but draw a little closer and a foul stench will tell you that all is not well. After several complaints, the City tracked down the owners, who bricked up the entrances, but later on, the back end of the building was broken into and problems continued.
Salt River Residents’ Association chairwoman, Wardah Rahim, said: “These sorts of buildings are a complete eyesore and causes the residents so many problems. You know something is a problem when you simply walk on by and there is this awful stench that comes from the property. This sort of thing devalues people’s properties,” she said.
Ms Rahim said residents had described their frustrations with the area’s derelict properties at a recent meeting.
“We are calling on the City to fix up and restore these properties to their former glory,” she said.
Salt River had “a major rat problem” and with residents dumping their waste on problem properties, Ms Rahim said she couldn’t “see this problem getting any better”.
The City’s problem building unit charges delinquent property owners a step tariff, which means the penalty increases the longer a property remains on the list of problem buildings. The tariffs are R5 000 a month for the first one to six months; R10 000 a month for months six to 12; R20 000 a month for months 12 to 18 and R25 000 a month for months 18 to 24.
“The step tariff is designed to encourage property owners to comply with notices issued and save themselves additional financial headaches. The monthly tariff is in addition to any costs incurred by the City in cleaning up after property owners,” said JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security.
He said many of these properties could contribute to social decay and harbour criminal elements.
“We deal with all complaints in the same manner irrespective of the number of complaints logged,” he said, noting that the unit had to follow due process, which “can take time”.
Private property owners have to launch their own eviction proceedings and find alternative accommodation for anyone occupying the property. However, Mr Smith said, many struggled to do this, which led to the problem building becoming a blight on the neighbourhood.
“There are numerous steps that the City has to follow in dealing with problem buildings. Absent landlords or property owners, deceased owners and the issue of unlawful occupation are but a few of the potential stumbling blocks that increase the time spent concluding a case,” he said.
The City said the Salt River problem building cases are still pending.