Crowds seek help with values

2008-03-10 00:00

Northern suburbs residents flocked to lodge their rates objections on Saturday. There were queues from as early as 6.30 am at help centres set up by the Msunduzi rates forum and ward councillors.

The seven centres were due to close at 4 pm, but councillors and forum volunteers worked until after 8 pm to assist those who waited patiently throughout the day. By yesterday, a rough tally indicated that about 1 500 objections had been lodged, said forum chairman Yusuf Bhamjee.

A resident who arrived at the Truro Centre at 11 am only managed to get to one of the many help desks by 3.30 pm. “I’m not complaining,” she said. “We are getting help here and the forms are extremely complex to fill in. My husband and I looked at the objection form and didn’t know what to do.”

By mid-morning, the objection process had been streamlined, chairs were provided for those waiting, help desks were set up in rows and those who did not want to wait were given lessons by volunteers on how to fill in the objection forms.

There were irate voices and tears as those in the queues related their tales of woe of to each other. All asked why their houses were over-valued. “If we could get these prices, don’t you think we would have sold our houses and moved out of this area long ago?” many said.

There were complaints about the terrain of the area, the predominance of shale that causes houses to crack periodically and the density — houses are so close to each other that neighbours can hear each other’s family squabbles.

A resident said his renovated sub-economic house in Northdale was valued at R1,1 million. His son’s house in Hayfields, complete with a swimming pool, has been valued at R1 million. He said his house would fit into his son’s backyard, yet given the new valuation he will end up paying higher rates than his son.

Bhamjee complimented the councillors and the volunteers for their hard work and he and the ward councillors thanked members of the community for their patience.

He said the gathering gave them the opportunity to inform people about the valuation process.

He was impressed by how attentively people listened and the probing questions they posed.

“Many residents were concerned that no matter how low council will set its rate randage, they will still end up paying more rates, because their properties have been over-valued,” he said.

nalini@witness.co.za

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