Scottsville boarding house owners want their voices heard

2014-05-05 00:00

SCOTTSVILLE boarding house owners, feeling under siege, have formed an organisation to protect their interests.

This follows the recent establishment of the Boarding Establishment Action Group (BEAG) aimed at controlling the mushrooming of student digs in the suburb.

The spokesperson for the Boarding House Owners Association (BHOA), Pat Mbatha, said it was time their voices were heard as their reputations had been tarnished as people who were uncaring and exploitative, and who ran illegal and irresponsible institutions. Mbatha said they were mindful of applying for special consent and many of them had spent thousands of rands on the process.

She said there may be people who were not running proper establishments, but it was unfair to generalise. “Many of us are business people, building up our reputations. We don’t want to be breaking the law, and in any case students are well aware of their rights, and if we provide shabby places with poor facilities, they will complain,” Mbatha added.

She said they felt particularly targeted by the Msunduzi Municipality and the action group. “If their main complaint is that we have not complied with the law in establishing the boarding houses, have the owners been advised and guided as to how to legalise their operations?” she asked.

According to Mbatha, the process to apply for special consent was complex and costly. It took from six to nine months and longer, and can easily run to R80 000 and more. She said at their meeting they discovered that most boarding establishment owners had opted to use consultants because the process was not easy.

The documents prepared by the consultant cost between R35 000 and R50 000. Then there was the municipality’s request for such things as a stormwater management plan, which costs between R10 000 and R20 000. Amended property plans cost between R10 000 and R15 000. After all this outlay, the boarding house owners often have their special consent requests turned down.

Mbatha said while they were being turned down, there were home-based businesses like bed-and-breakfasts, private consultancies, decor and sewing centres mushrooming in Scottsville, and their own research had revealed that many of these businesses had not applied for special consent.

“Why is the action group complaining about the boarding houses only? Even then, not all the existing digs in Scottsville are being targeted; it’s only a select few. What criteria is the group and the municipality using for picking on certain boarding houses?” Mbatha asked.

“All of us involved — the owners, the action group, the municipality, the academic institutions — we have to talk about a way forward,” she said.

Call for meeting to tackle issue of digs shortage

THE Boarding House Owners Association presented The Witness with a statement calling for dialogue on the issue of the shortage of accommodation, not just for students but for the influx of people who have moved to the capital city.

The statement said digs were an integral part of Scottsville and most Pietermaritzburg suburbs. It pointed to the Scottsville and Pelham Planning Initiative (SPPI) prepared in 1998, which at that time provided for a range of residential accommodation to cater for the growth in the student population. The statement said: “In our view, the boarding houses meet a crucial need for accommodation of students and other people in the whole of Pietermaritzburg. The SPPI recognises their importance in the development of Scottsville and Pelham.

“Accordingly it is incumbent on the municipality to protect them and not criminalise them. In this regard, the municipality should call a meeting of all the stakeholders, explain the law to them and guide them in complying with it,” the statement said.

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