Derelict house a headache

Garbage piles inside the Victorian house.

Wynberg residents are furious that nothing is being done about derelict houses that have been invaded by vagrants, however,
a public private partnership
with local schools could very
well be a solution to the problem.

Two of three houses and the public open space behind
them are owned by the Department of Public Works (DPW). Above them is a triangle of land called Waterloo Green, owned by the City of Cape Town and running parallel to Trovato

The residents, who live nearby, got together last week to do something about the escalation of home invasions, car break-ins and petty theft, according to resident Evelyn Holtzhausen. This is not the first time a meeting has been held.

Resident Werner van Kets said Wynberg Neighbours for Change was formed in February 2018 but it had fizzled out. Almost one year later 26 residents met in a Seymour Road garden to discuss a way forward after three criminal incidents occurred since Christmas.

Architect, Nic Louw first reported the houses to the City’s problem building unit on April 11, 2017 (“Big woes at Waterloo,” Bulletin, April 20 2017). Back then, on inspection by the Bulletin, shutters swung in the wind, doors hung off hinges and rats scurried through knee-high grass and piles of garbage at the vandalised Victorian house. Next door, mattresses and blankets covered patchy thatch
at the appropriately named Ye Olde Thatch. Its double doors stood open, the sash windows too,
and yet the entrance gate was locked.

At 4.47am on Thursday November 2, 2017, the City’s fire services were called when Ye Olde Thatch was burnt beyond repair (“Historical house up in flames”, Bulletin, November 9 2017). Mr Louw is disgusted that nothing had been done to preserve these historical buildings.

According to Ameerah Peters of Heritage Western Cape, the houses are older than 60 years and have general protection under the National Heritage Resources

Wynberg police spokesperson, Captain Ntombi Lindipasi, said they were investigating a case of arson. She said the police had carried out several drug raids at the house over the years.

In February last year DPW officials visited another problem building at Constantia Meadow where scores of residents came out in force to hold a peaceful protest asking for a derelict house to be demolished. DPW officials told protesters their hands are tied. They have to work with the Department of Justice. The wheels turn slowly, they said. They did, however, arrange for full-time security at both sites for just under three months (“Victory for Waterloo”, Bulletin, March 1 2018).

When this ended, the vagrants and vermin returned as did the drug deals and petty theft.

At the meeting last week, ward councillor Liz Brunette told residents that she had been trying for the past three years to get DPW to secure the homes. She said the City did not have the budget to do so.

In September last year the City declared the houses to be problem buildings (“Heritage houses declared problematic”, Bulletin, September 6 2018).

Mr Van Kets, who is also a member of Wynberg Boys’ Junior School governing body, told those at the meeting that he had a mandate from Wynberg campus of schools, which includes the high and junior girls’ and boys’ schools, to form a public private partnership and take over Waterloo Green, the three houses
and open land. The third house, on the corner of Waterloo Close and Ellerslie Road is occupied by the SA Police. Mr Van Kets said the first step is to fence the proper-

Speaking on behalf of the campus, Wynberg Boys’ High School headmaster Jan de Waal confirmed that the four Wynberg schools were willing to take over the field and buildings jointly. “The open space would be used for parking and recreational activities and the houses for staff accommodation and desperately needed additional boarding space. The schools would jointly take responsibility for fencing the area and security,” said Mr De Waal.

DPW spokesperson, Thami Mchunu, said they were aware of the issue but were unable to say what the future plan was. In previous correspondence with DPW they said they had thousands of problem properties around the country and were unsure if they actually own all of them and, if so, who the tenants were.