Evictions on hold after protest

Steenvilla residents take to the streets to protest evictions.
Steenvilla residents take to the streets to protest evictions.

Evictions at Steenvilla, Steenberg have been put on hold for now as the people involved go back to court.

A total of 22 families were supposed to be evicted on Monday last week but the residents took to the streets – burning tyres and throwing rubbish on Military Road – saying they would not move.

Steenvilla is run by Sohco Property Investments, a private non-profit company. Sohco develops and manages affordable rental housing.

Steenvilla Social Housing Action Group chairperson Beryl Schouw says the people are being evicted for raising their concerns on water issues and rent increases.

“Evictions have been stopped for now as we went to court to appeal the decision. People were about to be thrown out with no alternative accommodation. We have been helped with court fees and we will be fighting the matter in court,” she says.

Heather Maxwell, CEO of Sohco, says in March last year a small group of tenants stopped paying rent.

“After attempts to resolve the situation were unsuccessful, Sohco initiated eviction proceedings in court last year, with eviction orders eventually being granted in March and May this year. A total of 22 evictions were planned by the Sheriff of the Court for Monday 24 July. The tenants being evicted have been in arrears for 12 months, and during this period all attempts to resolve the situation and avoid eviction proceedings have been unsuccessful. In response to a disturbance on site, the evictions have been postponed to a later date,” she says.

Schouw believes they are being targeted for questioning their rental fee.

“Our rent has gone up a lot. We have other people paying over R1500. When they moved here they were paying about R800.

“People started to voice their concerns on the issues at Sohco; now they are being targeted. In the last two years the rent has gone up and people are finding it difficult to cope with the hikes but they have always honoured their commitments to pay. Those who voiced their concerns have made the top list of being evicted,” she says.

Another resident, Jill Adams, says people are struggling to pay their rent but they are paying something.

“One of the pensioners who was going to be evicted is 78 years old. She gets R1500 from a Sassa grant and she is expected to pay over R2000 rent. Tell me how can she manage to do that? How will she live her life? She is not able to pay the full amount but she is paying. It’s not like people decided to pay whatever amount but we discussed everything with Sohco management and told them about the struggles.”

Schouw say the social houses were meant for the poor and those who didn’t qualify for government houses.

“Now they want to chuck these people out and where do they expect them to go? People have been paying rent,” she says.

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