Cape Town – Elderly tenants living in the Welverdiend residence in Rondebosch are fearful that they might end up on the street, after their landlord Communicare gave them notice to vacate the premises and R4000 each to find alternative accommodation.
Communicare wants to demolish the building because it is “old and dilapidated”.
So concerned are the residents and those who have taken up their plight that an interfaith service was held last night at St Michael’s Catholic Church to pray for their well-being.
Acting chairperson of the Welverdiend residence committee, Berenice Whyte, said: “The tenants had a meeting with representatives of Communicare, which owns the residence to discuss the relocation process.
“We were told to vacate or relocate by April when the demolition is to take place. Their reason for wanting to remove us from the building is because they say it is old and dilapidated. But they couldn’t show us any proof of the damage,” she said.
“The building is going to be completely demolished,” Whyte said.
The president of the Service and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Sawusa), Wilfred Alcock, said: “Communicare has a history of bad relationships with tenants, and they are not being active enough in caring about the elderly.
“The senior residents are in the final stages of their lives where they want to relax and be loved, but this entire process will impact on their health by causing them severe stress.”
Alcock said Rondebosch was a prime residential area and Communicare might not be fully interested in providing social housing to older people getting below R2000 a month when they can get a profit for building upmarket apartments on the site.
A resident at Welverdiend, James Engelbrecht, who refused to take the R4000 and sign the relocating letter, said: “The owners are only interested in the profit that they can make from removing us from the property, and our emotional and financial status is not being taken into consideration.
“The residents can easily be manipulated at this age, and they can easily be taken advantage of in this situation,” he said.
A 76-year-old concerned resident at the Welverdiend residence for the past 19 years, who wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of victimisation, said: “In the beginning, the residence was aimed towards providing affordable housing for senior citizens in their pension years, but as the years went on, more students and working-class people began to move in. This could have been because they can afford to pay higher amounts of rent.”
Communicare chief executive Anthea Houston said: “We have been open and transparent with all the tenants.
“We will schedule further meetings to provide the tenants with the information they requested. We will also share an audit on the condition of the building with the tenants.”
Houston said proof of the state of the building was self-evident as tenants were aware of the pipes that have burst and flooded passageways, blocking off access to units at least twice during the past year.
“Communicare will pay for their relocation, and ensure that there are no additional costs for vulnerable tenants.
“Tenants were given six months’ notice to vacate prior to the building being demolished. As yet, no tenant has been issued with a formal notice to vacate,” read a statement from Communicare.
Welverdiend is 68 years old and was originally built as a convent with 115 units.