Cost of living ‘high’ for low-income housing tenants

2017-07-05 06:03

A GROUP of tenants at Acacia Park - state-subsidised social housing, targeting low to medium income groups - spoke to Echo about complaints they claimed have gone unattended by the company that manages the housing units and the area­’s ward councillor.

The tenants, who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation, or being threatened with eviction, claimed that the installation of prepaid water meters was not communicated effectively to them and that using the system is costly and so prefer buying their water directly from the Msunduzi Municipality.

Another complaint was that an agreement was reached between the managing company, Capital City Housing (CCH), formerly known as Msunduzi Housing Association, and tenants that six kilolitres (kl) of water would be provided to them for free, however, tenants said this has been reduced to three kl and that this too was not properly communicated to them.

Tenants also complained about the percentage at which their rent increases which exceeds the increase of their personal income, they said.

Complainants also included that when a tenant fails to pay rent they are evicted in a manner they feel is not just, not fair and not in accordance with the law.

Tenants claimed electricity is expensive because they believe they are purchasing it from a private company and don’t want this.

They also claimed that Capital City Housing does not regularly inspect buildings to see if there are maintenance issues that need to be addressed and that other maintenance issues, such as fixing doors and painting the units are costs they themselves are forced to bear, and they claim that is not part of their lease agreement.

Tenants said they have in the past and as recently as December 2016 raised these issues with the area’s ward councillors, past and present, however, not to their satisfaction.

The current councillor, Nokuthula Msimang, said she is aware of these issues and that she acts as a middleman between the tenants, forwarding their complaints as her constituents, and relevant stakeholders.

She added that a meeting was held between tenants from Oribi and affected stakeholders and that tenants from Acacia Park were supposed to attend the meeting last Friday, but failed to do so, nor did a representative attend because they had told the councillor that work commitments meant they could not.

CCH Chief Executive Officer Ivor Caldecott said in an email response: “I would like to place on record that there is a functional tenant committee which tenants can approach to address various issues.

“Strangely this committee has not approached us with any [of these complaints].

“We are an open organisation and are very happy to deal with issues as and when they arise.”

Caldecott said prepaid water meters were installed in 2013 and many notifications were sent out.

“A public meeting was held on the site where I attended with our client services manager, Khosi Xaso.

“All concerns were allayed.

Unfortunately, there is no option for a tenant to have an account directly with the municipality as we are bulk billed and the municipality does not deal with the individual billing within the complex.”

He said the municipality does not credit CCH’s account with six kl free water for each tenant as they are not indigent customers.

“We issue three kl free water monthly to qualifying tenants as a goodwill gesture and entirely at our own cost,” Caldecott said.

He said the rent was recently increased by eight percent, which he said, is in accordance with various items of consideration.

This includes inflation, affordability to tenants, company feasibility, the ongoing ability of the company to service its debt, and other comparative organisations and general market consideration.

“Tenants are only evicted via court order.

“An application is made for relief to the court by the company in situations where tenants have failed to pay rentals despite numerous requests for them to do so.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2


The tenants have the opportunity to either represent themselves in court or hire attorneys should they feel that they are being prosecuted wrongfully. All evictions are in terms of the Rental Housing Act and are 100% lawful,” Caldecott said.

He said the electricity is purchased from the municipality by Capital City Housing NPC in terms of its bulk meter.

“Capital City Housing NPC has prepaid installations in each unit and [sells] the electricity back to tenants at cost. No profit or markup is made on the transaction,” he said. He said annual inspections are conducted on all of the units by Housing Supervisors.

“We how however rely on tenants reporting faults to our office for us to be able to deal with them efficiently. All tenants may contact Lindani (our maintenance agent) at our offices if they have a maintenance complaint or query. In terms of our lease, certain maintenance items are the responsibility of the landlord and others of the lessee,” he said.

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