Elderly tenants feel ‘trapped’

Residents say the Welverdiend Comminicare complex has not been upgraded since it was built more than 90 years ago.

Residents of a Rondebosch complex run by social housing agency Communicare, say the organisation has turned a blind eye to their deteriorating living conditions.

The last straw for residents at the Welverdiend Communicare complex was when a security guard at the front gate was replaced by an automated gate they have to use a cellphone to open. Residents say the change has made them vulnerable to thieves.

“A tenant was slashed in the hand and his cellphone was taken recently. Many elderly had to buy cellphones to use the new gate and some don’t know how to use cellphones. Sometimes they can’t open the gates themselves, so they stand and wait until someone comes and assists them and it’s unsafe,” said resident Marlene Scheepers.

“Some of the residents are imprisoned here, there is no wheelchair access for the disabled and those staying on the second floor or third floor can’t leave their rooms. They want to charge you more per month if you’re moved down to the lower flats and the elderly can’t afford it.”

Residents also complained that the complex’s facilities hadn’t been upgraded since it opened more than 80 years ago, and only a single maintenance person cleaned three times a way.

Residents claimed Communicare management had ignored their concerns about deteriorating living conditions.

“The health inspector and fire chief were here and said that this place is not in order. There is no fire marshal. If there is a fire, there are people upstairs, who will bring them down? The bin area is also overcrowded. There are 300 people here using 14 to 20 bins,” said Alec Pelston.

Ms Scheepers pointed to some trees stripped of their branches. “Look at this trees,” she said. “They butchered this garden. The City sends someone to look at the trees and stopped them from cutting up the rest. These are heritage trees. We had to go to report to the councillor because Communicare wouldn’t give us an ear. They are breaking rules as they see fit,” said Ms Scheepers.

Ward 59 councillor Ian Iversen, said that Communicare needed to listen to its residents as its actions caused the elderly unnecessary stress and unhappiness.

Mr Iversen also said Communicare claimed to face financial hardship but its annual statement didn’t relfect that.

“ At Welverdiend no pensioners have moved in during the past 18 months. I think that the reason is easy to work out. A state pensioner currently receives about R1 510 a month, but a young professional person could earn about R20 000 per month. So the rent could easily jump from R1 000 to R4 000 per month,” said Mr Iversen.

Communicare spokeswoman Michelle Matthee said Communicare did not wish to comment publicly on Mr Iversen’s comments as they were in discussions with him about the issues he had raised.

Ms Matthee said Communicare realised Welverdiend needed maintenance and and the organisation was seeking a way to fund that but existing rentals in the complex were low.

“Communicare’s rental complexes have been designed for people who can live independently. When tenants become frail they require accommodation in proper frail care facilities. Communicare, as with any landlord, has no obligation to relocate tenants if they are no longer physically capable of living in their existing unit.

“Welverdiend has never been declared ‘unsafe’ by any authority and reports received as part of our audits are given high priority to rectify any issues or concerns raised.

“Communicare has placed measures to make sure that the complex is safe, including access control. Tenants should be vigilant with safety in all aspects of their lives, as personal safety is paramount for all members of the community,” said Ms Matthee.

She said residents should “use the correct channels” to report any incidents.

“We have a dedicated team, including the building supervisor and maintenance officers who attend to all queries as they arise throughout the week. External service providers for cleaning and gardening are used to service the Welverdiend complex,” said Ms Matthee.