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The Law Enforcement Department’s Social Housing Unit is tasked with addressing crime and other social ills in City-owned rental stock and making sure that tenants toe the line. They responded to over 450 complaints and made 63 arrests during the first six months of 2016 alone. 

The City of Cape Town’s Social Housing Unit is making inroads in its bid to make City-owned rental stock areas safer.

The unit was established in 2012 to ensure that tenants comply with the conditions of their lease agreements – focusing specifically on crime and other social ills that affect the quality of life of tenants in rental stock units.

In the first six months of this year, the unit reacted to 458 complaints received via the City’s housing offices. The complaints included allegations of drug peddling and the operation of illegal shebeens as well as illegal occupation. They issued 430 compliance notices, made 63 arrests (the bulk of which were for drug-related offences), and issued 321 fines totalling R248 550 for various by-law transgressions.The unit has further raised the stakes with a pilot project in Ravensmead and Uitsig in recent months. The Blue Flag Project focuses on 144 City-owned rental units, with the aim of curbing drug abuse, gang activity and anti-social behaviour.

In February, the Unit was instrumental in the City reclaiming five units in the Ravensmead/Uitsig area that had become known drug and gang havens. The illegal occupants left the properties due to consistent pressure from officers attached to the Unit as well as the South African Police Service (SAPS).

‘Complaints about gangsters invading rental properties are not new. Getting them out is an arduous task, even when we take the legal route. The “Little House on the Prairie” property is an example of the marathon that an eviction battle can be. The fact that our staff managed to help get these illegal occupants out without the City having to go to court is an achievement to be proud of.

‘Another big plus that’s come with this Blue Flag Project is the change in mind set that has been evident in so many of the tenants. Where before there was very little regard for law enforcement agencies, including the SAPS, the successes of recent months have gone a long way in building relationships and trust between law enforcement officials and tenants,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

The City is also getting ready to advertise a series of new posts for the Unit. These new posts will carry the functions of both law enforcement and housing officials i.e. they will deal with urban decay and maintenance issues in addition to enforcement and policing. It is envisioned that in the future the Unit will deal not only with crime and safety, but with general by-law enforcement and complaints relating to quality of life, in order to help improve conditions for residents in our rental housing units in a holistic manner.

A few months ago, the City’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate launched another initiative aimed at making rental stock areas safer for tenants. The Women in Rental Stock Project is aimed at uplifting rental stock areas in nine suburbs and addressing socio-economic challenges by empowering female tenants (more details are available here: http://tinyurl.com/hbfzhm7).

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