PROTEST: Woodstock residents

A company that bought a block of properties in Woodstock wants the public to raise funds for the estimated 100 people they are evicting.

The Hub director Jacques van Embden says they’re hoping to raise geld for 28 families in Bromwell Street, who have been told to pack up and leave by September 9.

The Hub kicked off the crowd funding initiative with R50 000 of their own.

Van Embden has denied claims the properties will be demolished to make way for a parking lot.

Instead, they plan to replace the old 14 semi-detached houses with “middle income rental apartments” which will be rented out for R5 000 and R9 000 a unit.

ACTION: Jacque van Embden, The Hub director

The Hub has been accused of “gentrification”, when rich tenants move in resulting in higher house and business prices, making it impossible for poorer residents to stay on.

The company bought the properties, which have fallen into disrepair, from Reza Syms in October 2013, and Van Embden said they notified residents a few weeks later that the property had been earmarked for development, and that they needed to move. Eviction notices were served two years later.

Van Embden says: “Contrary to allegations, we did interact with the occupants, including a proposal for free rental and utilities for three months in 2014.”

He says they will be meeting with residents soon to discuss the matter.

“The proposal we are going to table when we meet with the occupants is to assist them, through partner NGOs and the City of Cape Town, in finding permanent employment within the area, and help find them housing.”

But occupant Charnell Commando says it’s all lies.

She says: “We did not and have never had any kind of agreement or communication with these owners. Now they are coming forward, but they don’t feel anything for us. We are not going to just do what they say. They did not engage with us and R50 000 for 28 families is ridiculous. We need homes and we want engagement.”

She said they are not willing to relocate to Blikkiesdorp, where they are likely to end up if evicted.

But Van Embden says they can't grant another extension, as the saga has been going on for two years, and they're ready to build.

“The project would result in roughly 3200 square metres of rentable space meaning 60 to 70 new middle income rental apartments would be created. Rentals will be between R5 000 and R9 000 per flat,” he said.

On Saturday, residents and civil organisation Reclaim the City occupied the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock in protest at the eviction.

Reclaim the City on Sunday demanded The Hub directors meet with residents within a week, or they would occupy their offices in Woodstock next.