City wants ‘illegal’ occupants ‘Albowed’ out

The City wants to remove people who it says have unlawfully occupied seven flats at Albow Gardens, in Brooklyn.

The City has issued notices to several occupants of Brooklyn’s Albow Gardens council flats, who it says have occupied the units illegally.

Seven of the complex’s 212 units are illegally occupied, according to a City report detailing action taken to deal with the unlawful occupation of public rental stock.

Thirty-five rental units in Manenberg, Elsies River, Uitsig, Atlantis, Mitchell’s Plein, Silvertown and Heideveld are illegally occupied by alleged gangsters, according to the report.

The report was tabled in a Thursday June 23 Sub-council 3 meeting and made available online in mid-July.

The report does not specify the number of occupants in the seven units at Albow Gardens.

The City considers unlawful occupants to be people who are not family members listed on the City-recognised tenant’s family form; people who have moved into a vacant dwelling without council authorisation; people who have forced tenants out of their rental units; and those who have been left behind by a vacating tenant or when the tenant died.

Tabletalk reported in April that the City was looking to evict five families in Albow Gardens, including a couple in their 70s (“Albow Gardens evictions loom,” Tabletalk April 6).

Ward councillor Fabian Ah-Sing referred queries to mayoral committee member for human settlements Malusi Booi.

Mr Booi said: “The City issued notices to unlawful occupants in its (council flats) across the metro over recent months.

“Seven units at Albow Gardens have been unlawfully occupied and notices have been issued.

“The City makes every effort to consider those found in unlawful occupation of a City unit for regularisation, against the set criteria in terms of the reviewed City’s allocation policy.”

Mr Booi said residents were encouraged to approach a City housing office for assistance and guidance.

He said issuing notices was a last resort, and they were only served once all options had been exhausted.

Mr Booi said his office was still calculating the total in lost rental income due to illegal occupation.

Many unlawful occupants were either not registered on the City’s housing needs register or had quite recent application dates, “which is not fair to those who have been registered for a long time”, he said.

“This effectively takes away opportunities from applicants who have followed the correct procedure of registering on the housing database and who are waiting patiently to be assisted.”

The report casts Langa rental units as the most problematic, with 158 cases of illegal occupation, followed by 97 cases in Hanover Park and 69 in Retreat.

The report details actions taken to address the unlawful occupation, including the creation, in March, of a task team that worked until June to speed up the process of identifying unlawfully occupied units.

Officials in the sub-council meeting said they would compile another report outlining capacity challenges, and it would be submitted to the human settlements portfolio committee.

The report said City officials enforcing the law faced numerous assumptions, including that they were insensitive and rude in dealing with unlawful occupants; that they were unreasonable in requesting proof of stay; that they intimidated unlawful occupants; that they were evicting people; and that notices served on illegal occupants were perceived as eviction orders.

Asked whether evictees would get alternative accommodation and what difference there was between a “notice” and an eviction order, Mr Booi said: “Notices were issued and not eviction orders. The unlawful occupation of the community residential units (CRUs) takes away opportunities from the rightful and registered applicants who patiently await their turn to be assisted with rental housing; it continues a system of informality as unlawful occupiers do not have legal contracts with the City and therefore do not pay rent, the latter which is used for maintenance of CRUs.

“The City encourages all residents who need assistance to approach us.”

Pressed to explain the contents of these notice and whether the occupiers get told when to move out, Mr Booi did not respond.

Shanaaz Button, who faced eviction in April, previously told Tabletalk she had been renting her two-bedroom unit from a legal tenant since 2017. She said that in 2018, City Law Enforcement officers had told her she was an illegal occupant and had asked her to pack her things up and leave. She said she was unaware that she was an illegal occupant and had been paying more than R1000 in 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,” she said at the time.