City of Joburg housing policy unconstitutional – Supreme Court

2011-03-30 14:23

The City of Johannesburg’s housing policy in relation to 100 poor people living in rundown buildings in Berea was unconstitutional, the Supreme Court of Appeal held today.

The court held that the policy was unconstitutional to the extent that it excluded the occupiers from consideration for temporary emergency accommodation.

The Bloemfontein court confirmed a high court order in which the City of Johannesburg was obliged to provide the occupiers, whose names appear on a list, with temporary emergency accommodation.

This accommodation should be as close as possible to the Berea properties, provided that the occupiers were still resident at the properties, belonging to Blue Moonlight Properties.

The city appealed the high court decision to the Supreme Court of Appeal on the basis that it was only obliged to provide accommodation to people it evicts from properties it considers unsafe.

The building owners joined the city as a party to the court proceedings in the high court after they had served its application for eviction on the occupiers.

However, they opposed this saying they could not be evicted until the City of Johannesburg discharged its constitutional obligation to provide them with temporary alternative accommodation.

An attorney at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, Teboho Mosikili, said the “powerful” judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeal on the matter was a ground-breaking decision.

“It confirms that the city was under a direct duty to alleviate the plight of the desperately poor and homeless,” said Mosikili in a statement.

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa said the city’s irrational attempts to evade its duties have been comprehensively dealt with.

The institute hopes that the city would respect the decision and implement the court’s decision soon.

The matter started when the group of desperately poor people living in a disused commercial property in Berea were sued for eviction by the owner in 2006.

The occupiers were represented in court by, among others, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa’s director of litigation, Stuart Wilson.

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies Litigation Unit at the Wits Law Clinic were the attorneys.

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