Although former residents of Steenvilla said they lost the legal fight to pay lower rent, the struggle wasn’t in vain as 34 residents qualified for free housing and were relocated to Forest Village, in Eersterivier, on Monday January 28.
Steenvilla in Steenberg is the largest social housing complex in Cape Town. It is managed by the Sohco company and has more than 700 units, which are subsidised by the state. While this means that the rent can be kept below the market rate, some Steenvilla residents soon found they could no longer afford it.
In 2017, rent at Steenvilla ranged from R1 000 to R3 150 a month.
Tina Schoor, spokesperson for the residents and who was also evicted, said three years ago the residents started fighting for low cost housing because they could not afford the rent.
The objective of Steenvilla was to offer affordable rental accommodation to qualifying households. Sohco leased the underlying land from the City on a long-term lease where they developed the buildings and other amenities on the site.
However, the residents couldn’t keep up with the escalating rent due to unemployment and some of the pensioners could not afford the rent either.
Ms Schoor said after numerous court appearances, the residents admitted defeat. “We fought them through a legal battle in court which we lost. They said we were being stubborn and refused to pay, however, that wasn’t the reason. We couldn’t afford to pay.”
The first group of people were evicted on Thursday November 23 2017 by the Red Ants Eviction Services and other security services removed the furniture and belongings. Previously there had been attempts to evict families who Sohco claimed had stopped paying rent.
Ms Schoor said the second group had been evicted on June 6 last year, and camping outside the complex for two months.
The two groups comprising 34 people were combined and they qualified for housing.
“There was a screening test and we had to fill in an application form for subsidies and in October we were approved to get houses in Forest Village, Eersterivier.”
Ms Schoor thanked MEC for Human Settlements, Bonginkosi Madikizela, who had taken their housing concerns into consideration.
She said they had also met with president Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss their plight. “We thank national and provincial government but it is of vital importance that they sit together and discuss plans as more people at Steenvilla are going to be evicted in future.”
Jill Alexander, also an evictee, said “all praise and glory goes to God” and she was glad that the evictees who slept outside, including babies, are no longer on the streets.
“They are now officially homeowners and their lives can start afresh. Their children can actually go to school now without worrying about evictions.”