NEWS | CAPE TOWN 

Dozens of families evicted at Cape Town’s largest social housing project

Previous attempt to remove Steenvilla households who are behind on their rent failed

Photo of mother and child at eviction
Residents watch as tenants are evicted from the Steenvilla complex. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

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About 30 families were evicted from Steenvilla in Steenberg, in Cape Town’s south peninsula on Wednesday, as police with security dogs watched.

Steenvilla is the largest social housing complex in Cape Town. It has over 700 units. The units are subsidised by the state, allowing the company that manages the block, SOHCO, to charge rents that are below market rates. In 2017 rents at Steenvilla ranged from R1,000 to R3,150 per month.

SOHCO attempted to evict residents who are behind on their rent a few times last year. Most of the evictions failed. For example, on 23 November a few dozen households were evicted during the day, but, following a court order, moved back in that evening.

“Don’t run, these dogs bite,” one mother said to her child as they walked past during the evictions on Wednesday. Families rummaged through piles of their belongings that had been put on the lawn outside the complex: televisions, bedposts, chairs, bags of sugar from the kitchen.

Lance Urion was one of the evicted. He has lived in Steenvilla for eight years with his grandmother, who is a pensioner. He moved in to help her with the rent, and he said although they were behind on payments, they had been paying rent. Now he does not know where he and his grandmother will go.

“There was no notice. They just came this morning and said we needed to be evicted,” Urion said.

Beryl Schouw, the chairperson of Steenvilla Action Group, broke down while explaining to GroundUp that Steenvilla is the 30th place she has moved to. She said she had lost lots of money in the process and her furniture had been damaged. While not evicted today, she expects she will be soon.

Schouw and her 78-year-old mother had moved in from a backyard dwelling in Grassy Park after being on the housing list since 2002. She lives with her two sons, and her mother, whom she said had a stroke and is asthmatic.

“I am not working and have had cancer for eight years. We are living on my mother’s pension, handouts from neighbours and R500 I get for looking after a neighbour’s baby. I lost my job and could not continue with paying rent. Last year I got a part-time job where I got paid R2,400 per month for three months but it was not enough to pay rent or arrears,” Schouw said.

Schouw said that the eviction was the continuation of the November evictions. She believes another 30 or so families are still facing eviction, including hers, and is unsure when the sheriff will come for them.

In response to questions from GroundUp, SOHCO released a very brief statement, “Evictions are carried out by the sheriff, with the support of SAPS, in response to court orders.”

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