Bothasig bristles at housing project

Construction on the third phase of Bothasig Gardens is under way.

The R160-million third phase of a low-rental housing project in Bothasig is due for completion in August, but surrounding residents fear it will aggravate crime, traffic congestion and overcrowding at schools.

The first and second phases of Bothasig Gardens, completed in 1994 and 2013 respectively, comprise 434 flats in a complex owned by non-profit company Communicare.

The third phase will add one four-storey, two three-storey and two-storey blocks of 94 studio flats, 63 one-bedroom flats and 157 two-bedroom flats. The studio flats of 30.5m², 31.5m² and 33m², will have rents ranging from R750 to R1485. The 34.5m² one-bedroom units will have a rental of R2178 and the two-bedroom flats, of 41m² and 44 m², will have rentals of R3135 and R4471.

The project is funded with R100 million from the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA), an agency of the Department of Human Settlements; R40 million from Communicare; and R20 in land and bulk services from the municipality.

Sixty percent of the flats will be for qualifying beneficiaries drawn from the City’s housing waiting. The rest will be advertised to the public, and anyone aged 18 to 65 can apply. Applicants should be earning below R15 000 but above R1 500, be permanently employed and have clear credit records.

Communicare spokeswoman Megan Lennert said an applicant should not have previously benefited from a housing subsidy grant.

The Bothasig Ratepayers’ Association (BRA), objected in 2018 to the development, citing an increase in crime, overcrowding at schools and traffic congestion among its reasons.

Graham Nel, the association’s chairman, said the complex had only one entry and exit point and the blocks of flats higher than two storeys would threaten neighbouring property values because of the intrusion on privacy.

“It is evident that the development was planned with the intention to force as many units as possible within the complex boundaries,” he said.

Communicare’s management of the current complex was poor, with security and control of the rental “screening” almost non-existent, he said.

“The current complex is fraught with social issues and crime is a huge problem at present,” he said.

Drug dealing at the complex had been reported to the police and Communicare many times, but nothing was done about it, he said, and there had been reports of residents at the complex forcing elderly occupants to give up their flats.

“We bring it to their attention and Communicare is always agreeable at meetings, but their constant staff turnarounds prevent action being maintained,” he said.

The project is set to be completed in August.

A Nassau Street resident Randall Steenkamp said he had objected to the development, citing increases in crime and traffic congestion.

Bothasig Gardens Tenants’ Association chairwoman Jodie Wilson said the lack of “experienced” security guards at the “one and only” gate at the complex was a concern she had raised with Communicare. And existing residents, including the elderly, were worried the complex would become overcrowded.

“If only people would be honest with Communicare during their screening process, then there would be control over the number of people living in the complex,” she said.

People tended to lie about how many people were moving into one flat, she said.

Ms Wilson said Communicare had promised to build a recreation hall in the complex but she had not seen any sign of that happening.

“Fortunately, Communicare’s new management team has agreed to work with us and for the tenants. We have brought our concerns to them,” she said.

Communicare spokeswoman Makhosi Kubheka said the hall would still be built once the flats had been finished.

The development comprises one four-storey, two three-storey and two two-storey blocks of 94 studio flats, 63 one-bedroom flats and 157 two-bedroom flats.

She said a second access gate was not needed, but there was a pedestrian gate near the bus stop in Nassau Street. And Communicare had never received any complaints from tenants about the security guards, she said.

Bothasig police spokesman Warrant Officer, Jacques Mostert said there had been recent cases of drug possession, theft from cars and assault at Bothasig Gardens but the complex was not seen as a crime hot spot. A neighbourhood watch was planned for the complex and would benefit the community, he said.

Ward 5 councillor Helen Carstens said there was no harm in adding to the existing complex, but traffic lights or traffic circles should have been included in the traffic impact assessment to ease congestion on surrounding roads.

Malusi Booi, mayoral committee member for human settlements, visited the development on Tuesday March 16, and in a statement he described its progress as “remarkable”. His office did not respond before deadline to questions from Tabletalk about the objection process.