Tenants forced to rehome

Welverdiend complex in Rondebosch.

Welverdiend tenants say they are disappointed in Communicare’s decision to demolish the Rondebosch block of flats, effectively forcing them to relocate to other facilities.

The tenants, some who have been living at the flats for 10 years, say they want proof of the planned demolition before they sign any papers or view any of the alternative facilities.

However, Communicare chief executive officer Anthea Houston said they had no choice but to demolish the 68-year-old building due to its age and significant structural problems that could no longer be repaired.

She said there were problems with plumbing and damp coming through the bricks; there was no hot water in the kitchens, only in the bathrooms; windows were rusted; and none of the units had showers, only 200-litre baths.

“Communicare is concerned that the building poses a long-term health and safety risk. Fixing these severe structural problems with the building are not feasible by renovation. It has, therefore, become necessary to demolish the building,” said Ms Houston.

Tenant Sandra Fourie said the elderly (between the ages of 70 and 80), were unhappy and anxious about the pending relocation. She has been living there for 10 years.

“The situation is not fair on the elderly. We have met with Communicare but are not pleased with the information they have given us and the tactics they are using.”

Edward Musset said they had asked for proof of the planned demolition and what Communicare planned to do with the property but had not received any information. Their request for a report showing the building was not habitable, had also not been met.

Mr Musset said he had found himself in a similar situation in 2014 when he had had to move from Musgrave Park after the rental had become too much for him.

“We want to know what Communicare’s plans for the building are. Most of the elderly rely on their Sassa grants and would not be able to move back here, when the new development comes,” he said.

Ms Houston said they had identified alternative accommodation, including Creswell House in Newlands, Musgrave Park in Diep River, Dreyersdal in Bergvliet and Mez Wallach in Lakeside.

“Communicare will ensure there are no relocation costs for our vulnerable tenants, and we will pay the relocation costs, including assisting with the logistics of packing and unpacking. We have given thought to how we can reduce the impact on our tenants and have made units available in a number of developments managed by us,” she said.

But, Aubrey Wigeland, who has been living at Welverdiend for 10 years, said he did not want to leave his home. He said they had become a family and the location had been convenient for him as he attended church in the area, went to the District Six hospital and picked up his medication in Woodstock.

“I am deeply disappointed in Communicare. I have asked them to find me alternative accommodation in Rondebosch, but no one has gotten back to me on this.”

Mr Wigeland also questioned how it was that a social-housing organisation had a property company under its umbrella. He said while most tenants did not want to move, the thought of fighting a giant such as Communicare was daunting.

“It’s hard for the seniors to try and fight this as most of them fear where they would end up living, if they did,” he said.

Ms Houston said any surplus generated from rental units was re-invested into affordable housing. She confirmed that they owned Goodfind Properties, which managed their market rental units.

“We do not receive any operating grants from government, and we have to generate income to maintain all our properties and for expenses such as staff costs, security, rates and taxes, fixing electrical and plumbing problems as well as maintaining gardens. Our rental units are between 30% and 80% lower than the rates for similar properties in the same areas,” she said.

Ms Houston said the site would be redeveloped for housing units but plans were still in the conceptual stage.

“We have been open and transparent with all tenants. We will schedule further meetings to provide tenants with the information they requested. We will also share an audit on the condition of the building with tenants.

“I believe we are doing the responsible thing to demolish the building. I do worry about the stress the relocation will cause our older tenants. I am trying hard to make every tenant as comfortable as possible and ensure their individual requirements are met.”