On yesterday’s show, CapeTalk's Kieno Kammies spoke to Emile Engel of Ndifuna Ukwazi about the situation in Woodstock where up to 28 individuals are facing eviction from the properties they have called “home” for many years. The properties were bought by Woodstock Hub from Reza Syms a few years ago.
Jacques van Embden, Director of the Woodstock Hub, says when they purchased the properties, there was a contractual agreement with the seller that the houses would be vacant on transfer.
He indicated to us there were leases that he was in control of, and that the properties will be vacant. We didn't plan on inheriting the buildings with its occupants in it.— Jacques van Embden, Director of the Woodstock
He also says that the intention was not to turn the site into a parking lot. Their main business is to bring middle income renting stock to urban areas. and this has been their intention here.
Van Embden explained that in 2014 the tenants took them to the Rental Housing Tribunal. Woodstock Hub immediately offered the tenants free rental and covered utilities.
He says this was to help the tenants have time to secure alternative accommodation, but the tenants did not do that, and stayed where they were.
Woodstock Hub found itself in the difficult position of owning properties with occupants that had no leases.
We made sure that we haven't been punitive in any form or manner for the past two and a half years. We haven't looked for damages, we haven't looked for court fees and on top of that we've been covering the cost of basic services to ensure they can live in the property with dignity— Jacques van Embden, Director of the Woodstock
Van Embden also explained that they’re not just property developers, but they also plough their investments back into the community by providing amenities.
He says they will be meeting with the tenants, but time is a factor, as the case has been dragging for 3 years now and they would like to go ahead with the developments.
Woodsuck Hub will be starting a crowd funding campaign which they are going to seed with R50 000 to make sure the Bromwell Street tenants are able to find alternative accommodation.
Listen to the full conversation below: