Reclaim the City has been approached by a woman (who wishes to remain anonymous) whose rent has been increased by the City of Cape Town (‘the City’) by more than 2000%. She has rented a City council home in Salt River from the City of Cape Town since 1995. When her and husband moved in, they signed a lease agreement with a rental of R220 per month. The house was an uninhabitable mess. Over the years, they improved, fixed and maintained the property at their own expense.
Due to minor rental increases, her rent is now R243.81. She has never defaulted on her monthly payments and has lived happily in her home for the last 24 years.
In August 2019, the City of Cape Town sent her a letter saying they are increasing her rent to R5 500 per month. This is an astronomical increase from the R243 she is currently paying. The letter states that the City is reviewing all its property leases in its rental portfolio to establish its current market related potential. It says that this is in compliance with its laws and regulations on asset and financial management, which stipulate that the City’s assets should be rented at market related rents. It ends by saying that the new rental of R5 500 with an escalation of 8% per year will be effective on 1st October 2019, and gave her 10 working days to respond.
Alarmed by this sudden increase, she writes back to the City expressing her concern that the amount will be far more than she could ever dream of paying. She wrote back to the City and counter-offered an amount of R270 based on her income and living expenses.
In retaliation, last month the City indicated that they will be terminating her lease agreement. She has taken the City to the Rental Housing Tribunal to overturn the exorbitant rental increase and unlawful termination of her lease agreement.
The City’s conduct comes a few weeks after Mr Kenny Blaine’s eviction into homelessness. Like Mr Blaine, she lives in council rental housing in the Woodstock / Salt River area and has done so for an extended period of time. They are both elderly, vulnerable and have deep roots in the area. Fortunately, she is challenging the City of Cape Town early enough to ensure that she too isn’t evicted.
Earlier this year, Ndifuna Ukwazi released ‘A City leases Report’ which shows that the City is leasing golf courses and social clubs in well-located, predominantly white areas, for less than R1000 per year. If anyone needs more proof that the City is anti-poor and anti-black, this woman’s exorbitant rent hike is case and point. It also shows that the City has no intention of using well-located public land and housing for the benefit of those in need. The white elite can continue to benefit from the best land for their leisure activities. It is evidently not concerned that people residing in council homes cannot afford R5500 and will be either be forced into homelessness or live on the periphery of the city.
The City has over 9000 houses in its rental portfolio across Cape Town. We suspect that it has approached other tenants living in council houses and threatened to increase their rent. If you are one of these people, please approach Reclaim the City for assistance. The City needs to be challenged on the way it continuously fails to put people (who it claims to serve) before profit and white elite interests.