In a reply to a DA parliamentary question, the Department of Human Settlements has admitted that it has only been able to recover just over R600 000 in rentals despite being owed close to R7.5-million by the occupants over the last 12 months ending July 2009. The rental collection declined from 19% in July 2008 to a meagre 4% in July 2009.
Despite the fact that tenants give poor workmanship and lack of maintenance as key reasons for why they are not paying their rentals, only R180,000 has been spent on maintenance over the same period. If the Department was serious about addressing the very real concerns about poor workmanship in an attempt to get the tenants to pay their rentals, the amount spent on maintenance should have been much higher.
Although these units were originally meant to be occupied by beneficiaries from the Joe Slovo informal settlement and backyard dwellers, the final product far exceeded the original planned cost and therefore had to be rented out to people earning above the minimum R3500 per month that was envisaged. The current occupants went through a rigorous screening process undertaken by a private auditing firm to make sure that the rentals required would be within their affordability levels.
The fact that the Department seemingly has no interest in collecting rentals despite having a list of the names and addresses of the occupants, is an indication once again of the poor management of the N2 Gateway Project. If, by their lack of action, government condones the fact that most of the current tenants are occupying the units almost rent-free, then they may just as well have given them to the original targeted beneficiaries who are probably still living in their shacks in informal settlements and backyards.
The Department must act to normalise this situation by either attending to the genuine complaints by the tenants, after which they must fulfil their obligations, or evict the errant tenants and replace them with deserving people who are looking for subsidised rental accommodation. Social (rental) housing to date has not been the success that it should be, and with the many ambitious social housing projects in the pipeline with the recently established Social Housing Regulating Authority, it will be a non-starter. The current situation with the N2 Gateway rental housing (Phase 1) will set a dangerous precedence that will be difficult to overcome.
I, together with my deputy, Archibold Figlan, MP, will be doing our own fact-finding mission to determine how "real" the problems are at the N2 Gateway Project and what the Department/Thubelisha/HDA is doing, or not doing, to rectify the situation.