Next stage for flats

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James Engelbrecht, a tenant at Welverdiend in Rondebosch, says he will continue standing up for his rights. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen
James Engelbrecht, a tenant at Welverdiend in Rondebosch, says he will continue standing up for his rights. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

Interested and affected parties have until Thursday 25 February to object to or comment on a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) report for Erf 46732-RE, 22 Rouwkoop Road, Rondebosch – a precursor to applying for a demolition permit.

“Objections or comments that are not made on heritage grounds will not be considered,” reads the notice attached to the security gate outside Welverdiend, blocks of flats which until just over a year ago accommodated around 100 tenants.

Today that number stands at 39 tenants, with 18 scheduled to relocate soon.

“Twenty-one are yet to make a decision,” reads a media statement released by the owners of the property, Communicare, last week.

The “decision” refers to Communicare’s offer to relocate tenants to alternative accommodation within its housing portfolio “offered at no extra costs”.

Places of relocation include Dreyersdal, Bothasig Gardens, Straton Court, Musgrave Park and Creswell.

In October 2019, tenants were informed of Communicare’s plan to demolish and redevelop the “ageing property with failing infrastructure into 175 affordable rental units”.

During a media briefing held on Tuesday 21 January, Thabo Mashologu, general manager for property development and investment at Communicare, said the new development would target the gap market of people earning between R15 000 to R22 000 a month.

“We are looking to address some of the challenges teachers have in finding accommodation close to the schools in this area,” Mashologu said.

At the time of the briefing, Mashologu was unable to indicate exactly what percentage of the 175 units would be allocated to gap market tenants, saying the impact of Covid-19 on the economy made it difficult to judge what the need and average rentals would be a year or so from now.

For redevelopment plans to go ahead, and seeing that Welverdiend is older than 60 years – closer to 70, in fact – Communicare was required to appoint an independent heritage consultant to undertake a HIA.

“Communicare will consider these recommendations in its plans to redevelop the property. The recommendation and public submissions will then be submitted to the City of Cape Town’s South Peninsula Environmental and Heritage Resources Management for consideration,” read the media statement.

Should all go smoothly, demolition might begin as soon as later this year.

“Demolition will proceed once all tenants have moved and a demolition permit is issued,” said Communicare.

Although no official notice has been given to Welverdiend’s tenants, Communicare did indicate during the media briefing, that should a demolition permit be granted, six-months’ notice will be issued shortly after.

People’s Post first reported on Welverdiend shortly after Communicare first shared its plan with its tenants.

According to a Communicare statement released at the time, about 60 of the then 100 tenants were identified as pensioners, single moms and disabled persons by social workers from the company’s social development arm, Vulamathuba.

With 59 tenants having relocated already, Communicare stated it had gone to great lengths to support the vulnerable.

“Tenants were taken to view available units in the portfolio and could choose the accommodation that was most suitable for their needs,” the company said. It also arranged for removal companies, which it paid for.

People’s Post visited Welverdiend on Friday 24 January. As the late-afternoon sun reflected off the curtainless windows of the many empty units, it was hard not to think of the premises as a ghost town.

One of the ground units, however, is still vibrating with life. Here lives James Engelbrecht, a 70-year-old man who vows he will be “the last nail in this coffin”.

According to Engelbrecht, of the 21 tenants left, only about three of them are above 80.

The rest, he says, are mostly single moms.

His reason for not accepting Communicare’s offer was an alarm sparked by a sentence in the original relocation application document given to tenants to sign.

The sentence reads: “I also understand that Communicare is unable to guarantee accommodation to applicants”.

Engelbrecht believes this means that should he relocate to alternative accommodation, he will not be guaranteed the same lease agreement that is in place at present, possibly opening him up to exorbitant rental increases in the years to follow.

People’s Post shared Engelbrecht’s concern with Communicare. The company responded, saying there is no new lease agreement.

“That means that all lease terms remain exactly the same. There has, however, been an addendum to the lease agreement to specify the new unit, Communicare’s new address and the rental which is exactly the same current rental that tenants paid at Welverdiend.

“However, there are exceptions to the lease agreement. For example, some tenants preferred an upgrade to a larger unit which meant a new lease agreement and not an addendum to the Welverdiend lease.

“Communicare did include a clause in the application to say that the preferred unit when viewing may not be available at the time when tenants make the decision to move. This is what is meant by Communicare not being able to ‘guarantee accommodation’.”

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