Flats rise from the ashes

2016-10-04 06:00

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Attempts are being made to reconstitute the board for the Amakhaya Ngoqu flats project in Masiphumelele.

The project, in a public-private partnership, provided housing for families affected by a fire in 2006.

In October 2006, 400 shacks burned down in one night at the former School Site in Masiphumelele, says Lutz van Dijk, co-founder of the project.

“In a combined public private effort since then, 232 flats could be built for the poorest of the poor, as well as a playground and a community hall,” he says.

Started in October 2008, the partnership saw the properties constructed on council property in a rent-to-buy system, which would see tenants able to take ownership of the properties after a specified amount of time leasing.

However, two years ago the project was “derailed by a group of protesters against the board” at the time, explains Lutz.

“The office was taken over illegally and all administrative work ended. That also meant that no more maintenance work could be done without rental payments and the plan, to complete the project for 120 families still waiting, was interrupted.”

Subcouncil 19 chairperson Felicity Purchase adds: “The majority of tenants decided to stop paying rent. The service charges got into arrears and eventually the City cut the water. After much negotiation a compromise was reached where a portion of the arrears debt was written off, and with tenants liable for the rest.”

As a result of the arrears, little or no maintenance had been done and the last four planned blocks of flats have not been constructed, says Purchase.

“The present state of the project with many broken windows, water leakages and a dirty and partly dismantled playground is not only disgraceful, but also dangerous as the recent disastrous fire in one flat in September has shown,” says Lutz.

Lutz adds: “All serious efforts to get the project back on track are welcome, especially if it is in a firm cooperation between the City and the majority of the beneficiaries.”

However, the success of the project will depend on whether the beneficiaries can be unified again and if those who once signed a rental contract voluntarily will commit to paying the rent of R400 again, Lutz says.

“Will the City and provincial government finally the 50% responsibility it has been committed to from the beginning and supervise the running and completion of the project with professional expertise? Private donor funding of R4.2m for the construction of the final 120 flats is still available – once all other previous mentioned conditions are fulfilled,” he says.

The City has been “investigating the most beneficial ways to deal with the situation as owners of the land”, Purchase says.

“The community of the flats has also now come together to find a way forward with the view to finally getting their title deeds.”

A meeting was held and a new board elected. There will be an audit of all processes and of the finances undertaken, and once confirmed as procedurally correct, the new board will be ratified, Purchase says.

The move bodes well for the community, Purchase believes, as the additional housing could be used to accommodate beneficiaries originally identified as beneficiaries of the flats project.

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