Communicare promises to deliver

Communicare board chairperson, Anne Emmett stands alongside, corporate services general manager, Jana du Plooy at the Bothasig Gardens Communicare re-branding ceremony.

Social housing agency Communicare, which drew flak in the past for sharp rent increases when incorporating Kent Durr Retirement Home into its Bothasig Gardens development, has launched a rebranding campaign, promising to give pensioners a breather.

Communicare introduced new board members to the Bothasig Gardens community, on Wednesday September 28, and they promised to improve conditions for all at the complex and reach out to the vulnerable.

The organisation promised to create 2 000 more housing units in the Western Cape by 2025 and target a wider mix of tenants to include those not on the housing subsidy target lists.

This will be done to cross subsidise funds from the haves to the have-nots.

Pensioners would also get concessions. Communicare said it could no longer charge them a third of their R1 500 monthly income, which was not enough to maintain the units anyway.

“The legacy of apartheid means housing affordability is a problem. We are aware that we have these issues, and we need to address them. Achieving change is never easy and uncomplicated, but we need to do it in order to bring services to the community,” said Communicare board chairwoman Anne Emmett.

Communicare chief executive officer Anthea Houston said the non-profit company’s new logo was a hand-drawn symbol emphasising human touch, “interconnectedness” and co-dependency.

“We’re not just another landlord; we provide a connection for those in and outside the complex and provide opportunities that are hard to come by. We have been part of doing good and bad things in the past, but here we are, the new us,” Ms Houston said.

“The tenants are quite diverse, it doesn’t come without its own tensions,” she added.

Tenant Janette Meyers, who has been staying in Bothasig Gardens for 20 years, said her rent had shot up after Communicare decided to take on private people at the complex.

“I paid R200 for rent when I moved here; now I am paying over R2 000. I am with Sassa (South African Social Security Agency). I pay R600 for lights alone and I don’t cook everyday. I can’t afford it. Us older people all feel the same,” she said.

Johanna Sochoph, a resident of 11 years, was unsure whether Communicare would keep its promises.

“Initially, I was upset about the younger residents moving in, but it is all fine now. Some of the changes have been good, like the security has improved, but we will see whether they will come through with their promise. They sent us letters promising to give us seniors a better rate,” said Ms Sochoph.

Communicare foundation manager Nontombi Jubeju said: “We want to give our tenants social security services to ensure our tenants can be ready for the economic job market. If tenants are in debt, we have a programme to help them get out of it. We have a job seekers’ programme, and we want to facilitate digital access for tenants, as there are lot of opportunities it presents.”

Ms Jubeju said Communicare had partnered with the Jazzart Dance Theatre to teach youngsters contemporary dance and there was also an “active ageing” programme for the elderly helping them make arts and crafts to sell.

Benedicta van Minnen, mayoral committee member for human settlements, praised Communicare’s plan to reach more people and said the City was looking forward to working with the 87-year-old organisation, as it too wanted to move in the direction of mixed-use developments.

Communicare’s relaunch, she said, signalled the changes happening in the social housing sector.

“We need to increase mixed-use developments, improve the financial sustainability of our developments and strengthen the status of social housing provision, which includes inclusive, more affordable housing opportunities for the most vulnerable residents,” she said.

“This is the commitment that is being made with this re-launch of Communicare. They are changing their tenant mix and will be introducing opportunities at normal market rates to improve sustainability and enable the cross-subsidisation of the more lower-income tenants. This is an approach that the City of Cape Town supports whole-hearted,” said Ms Van Minnen.