Albow Gardens evictions loom

Five families from Albow Gardens flats face eviction

Five families, including an elderly couple in their 70s, are facing eviction from the Albow Gardens complex in Brooklyn.

The City of Cape Town says the families are living illegally in the council flats, but the residents have vowed to stay put and get legal help to fight the evictions.

Shanaaz Button says she has been renting her two-bedroom unit from a legal tenant since 2017, and in 2018, City Law Enforcement officers and some City officials told her she was living there illegally, but she said she was unaware of that and had been paying just over R1000 for rent.

She said they had told her that subletting was not allowed and the legal tenant would have to give up his flat.

“I provided the City with receipts of paying our rent, and they left my place, saying they will get back to me.”

In 2019, the legal tenant had come to her door and threatened to force her and her two daughters out of the flat, she said.

But the City had told her to stay at the flat until they “sorted out” the legal tenant, said Ms Button.

“We were traumatised by the legal tenant for many months, despite the City telling us to stay at the flat.”

Ms Button said she would not leave her flat because she had nowhere to go and would fight the eviction with a legal-aid lawyer should the matter go to court.

The other tenants facing eviction had received their notices in February, giving them 30 days to move out, she said.

Elizabeth van Wyk said she had been accused of living at Albow Gardens illegally, but she had been living there for 14 years.

“Why are they evicting me now? If I have been at Albow Gardens illegally, why did they not evict me a long time ago?”

Ms Van Wyk said she had stayed with her sick aunt, caring for her until her death in 2020, when she had applied to have the flat put in her name, but the council had refused so she had continued to pay rent in her aunt’s name.

“They are not doing their work, and now I have to be put out on the street,” she said.

The elderly couple who did not want to be named, fearing victimisation, said they did not know why they were being evicted as they had been living at the flat for 16 years.

The 72-year-old woman said there were gangsters and people selling drugs on the premises who should be evicted, instead people who paid their rent on time and were law-abiding were being kicked out.

Residents who spoke to Tabletalk said they were paying up to R1300 for their two bedrooms, while “drug lords and people with flashy cars” were bragging about paying R25 for rent.

The City said monthly rental could vary from R690 for a one-bedroom unit to R1400 for a three-bedroomed flat.

Ward councillor Fabian Ah-Sing said there were many reasons for the Albow Gardens evictions.

“There is a long list of people being evicted, but we are doing a few at a time,” he said.

About 22 people stood to be evicted, he said.

Mr Ah-Sing said some occupants of the flats had tried to take over the lease from a deceased lawful tenant, but they were there unlawfully because they had not been selected from the City’s housing waiting list. In other cases, tenants faced eviction for subletting illegally.

“Subletting is not permitted because tenants are not landlords and should not be making money from the City rental units opportunities they received.”

He confirmed that some tenants paid as little as R25 because it was all they could afford.

The City had sought a court order for the evictions and once the flats were empty, they would be allocated to people who had been on the housing database for the past 25 years, he said.

Mayoral committee member for human settlements Malusi Booi said most of the tenants at Albow Gardens were either not registered on the City’s housing database or had only added their names recently.

“We cannot condone unlawful occupancy which effectively can be regarded as queue jumping. That is unfair towards the thousands of applicants, patiently awaiting their turn to be assisted,” he said.