Tackling problem buildings

Councillor Eddie Andrews.

Two Mitchell’s Plain properties are among the top 10 problem buildings in Cape Town and this will now be the City’s focal point over the next few months.

According to the City of Cape Town, the two properties are in Bentley Road in Beacon Valley, and Maude Sumner Close in New Woodlands.

A presentation on problem buildings was done by senior inspector Clinton Overmeyer from the City of Cape Town’s Problem Buildings Unit at a recent Mitchell’s Plain sub-council meeting.

In Sub-council 12, the department was looking into a total of nine cases and in Sub-council 23, six cases.

According to the City, problem buildings are properties that are derelict in appearance; abandoned by the owner; overcrowded, where there are drug and prostitution activities; or where refuse or waste material is accumulated; dumped, stored or deposited.

Other problem buildings are illegally occupied, unlawful businesses are run from the properties, loud noises emanate from the buildings; they repair vehicles there without the required permissions; there are rat infestations and many buildings are left incomplete or do not have building plans.

Mr Overmeyer said if buildings become unhealthy, unsightly and unsanitary, the department would investigate and take action.

After the City receives a complaint, they will give the owner the opportunity to take corrective measures before issuing a notice of contravention and finally, if no corrective measures are taken, legal action will be instituted against the owner.

Mr Overmeyer said sometimes the process would be delayed if the buildings in question had heritage status, were deceased estates or government properties, when it was difficult to track down the owners or when the Problem Building Unit needed a dedicated prosecutor.

According to Eddie Andrews, mayoral committee member for area south, the sub-council had requested the presentation on problem buildings in Mitchell’s Plain.

Mr Overmeyer said there had been complaints about the Town Centre, which did not, however, fit the criteria of a problem building. “They fall under what is called “buildings with problems” which need to be attended to by other departments such as Planning and Building Development Management, Health and the Fire and Rescue Service,” he explained.

Ward 79 councillor Solomon Philander said while housing was one of the most critical needs in communities, this need could also be abused by families that didn’t understand the value of the asset.

Mr Philander said a council-owned property at 14 Tierboskat Street in Eastridge is another problem building in the area.

“The City took action and repaired the property but it was soon vandalised again. Problem buildings draw illegal activities and create unsafe places for the greater community.

“Innocent people become easy victims of crime, bad elements use these spaces as hide-outs and gathering places and the community use these places as dumping grounds,” he said.

He said problem buildings were contributing to the high crime rate in Mitchell’s Plain.

“In many cases, the original owner of the property are deceased or have sold the property to a drug dealer and then the property is used for illegal activities,” he said.

Mr Philander called on families to take responsibility for their properties. “I want to appeal to home- owners to ensure that they have a will and that they leave the asset in a responsible person’s hands who will look after the property and prevent illegal activities from taking place.

“In most cases, we are unable to trace the owners, because they abandon the property due to gang violence or the property is contained within someone’s estate who had no will drawn up. I also want to appeal to the community to report these properties and let us deal with this together.”

Mitchell’s Plain residents are at their wits’ end with the number of problem buildings in the area.

A resident who has lived in Beacon Valley for the past 30 years said she was aware of the goings-on at 71 Bentley Crescent, which was listed at a sub-council meeting as one of the top 10 problem buildings in the city.

“This house has posed (a problem) for us for many years. All I am at liberty to say is that gangsterism and drugs are an issue there. Different kinds of people who engage in anti-social behaviour are often seen coming out of that house,” she said.

A resident who lives in the crescent but did not want to be named said gang and drug-related activities were commonplace at that property.

She said an elderly couple who also lived in Bentley Crescent had approached her to complain about what was happening at the house.

“They experienced lots of noise and dumping. They found it difficult to sleep due to the noise. After complaining, to the City of Cape Town and filling out C3 notification forms, they got tired of the activities and sold their house. They just could not take it anymore,” she explained.

Ward 88 councillor Siphiwo Nqamnduku was unable to comment on the problem building situated in Maude Sumner Close in New Woodlands by the time this edition went to print.

Residents can contact the office on 021 444 8221 .