Slum busters

Posted On Monday, 19 August 2002 10:01 Published by
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Council's daring seize-and-clean plan to sweep away urban decay
By Sabelo Ndlangisa

The Joburg Metro is clamping down on inner-city slumlords by seizing and selling off their properties.

Next month the council will advertise 81 buildings for sale. All have been seized by the municipality because their owners or residents owe the metro money, and because they are in a state of disrepair.

The council's drastic clampdown follows a probe into the state of buildings in the inner city ordered by the municipality in September last year.

Inspectors surveyed the physical state of buildings as well as investigating how much building owners owed the council for unpaid services and rates bills. It is believed that between them the 81 buildings' debts could amount to as much as R162-million.

Overcrowding

The report drawn up after the probe details widespread overcrowding, broken lifts, filthy corridors, flooded basements and fire hoses being used to wash cars.

Council spokesman Nthatise Modingoane said most of the buildings surveyed were in Hillbrow, Yeoville, Doornfontein, Berea and Jeppestown. None would be demolished.

Modingoane said the council was planning to cancel the debts by selling the buildings, most of them blocks of flats, but only to people who could prove they had the means to renovate the buildings.

It was considering selling some of the blocks to tenants who already lived in them.

Modingoane said a number of non-profit companies, such as the Johannesburg Housing Company, were interested in buying and improving buildings and renting them to low-income earners.

The council not only wanted to recoup the money it was owed, while at the same time promoting better housing in the city.

Owners

The council official responsible for institutional housing, Skhumbuzo Ndumndum, said most of the targeted buildings owed the council 'a lot of money'. The owners had either abandoned them or been liquidated.

'Most of them [the buildings] are run by slumlords who have no interest in the buildings,' Ndumndum said

But many residents are unhappy with the council's decision to attach their buildings.

Mduduzi Magwaza, who owns a three-bedroom flat in Brighton Court in Hillbrow, said his payments for municipal services were up to date.

'Unfair'

He said it was 'unfair' of the municipality to attach his flat.

Another resident of Brighton Court, Edward Ndlovu, said residents would 'fight back' because most of them had paid for municipal services.

'The municipality should have come to us and proved to us we owe it money. There are a few residents who owe here . . . they can take over their units but why must it affect us?' he said.

A spokesman for residents of Ella Court in Hillbrow said she was surprised that their building had been included on the list of debtors as tenants had bought it two years ago and were up to date with their accounts.

Residents of Albany Court, also in Hillbrow, said they were talking to the former owners of their building to settle the debt with the Metro.

Their representative said they had spent a great deal of money to renovate their building and were up to date with their municipal account payments.

'Some of the buildings around us are slums and need attention. But our building is clean; they must keep their hands off it,' he said.

Apart from the 81 buildings on the list for immediate action, the council has started inspections of 75 other buildings.

A report on these buildings is expected to be sent to the council at the end of this month.

Spokesman for Johannesburg Housing Company John Ndebele said his company was planning to renovate 500 units a year - about five to eight buildings.

Ndebele said it cost about R36 000 to renovate each unit. Flats were rented at 50% of their market value.

He confirmed that several companies were interested in buying and refurbishing inner-city buildings.

Democratic Alliance spokesman Mike Moriarty said his party supported the seizure of the buildings as most of them were in a state of 'advanced decay'.

Sunday Times


Publisher: Sunday Times
Source: Sunday Times

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