Ire over empty houses


Thieves are slowly stripping wiring and plumbing from two state-owned houses in Tygerdal and a security firm says homeless people are dossing down there at night.

The properties, which were used by the SAPS for accommodation but now stand empty, are a source of worry for residents who say they are fast becoming a blight on the neighbourhood, one which threatens the safety of their families and the value of their properties.

Provincial police spokesman Captain Frederick van Wyk says SAPS are returning the properties in Buren and Nassau streets to the Department of Public Works.

He says no one has lived in them since March but residents disagree, saying the properties have been empty for much longer than this.

Two weeks ago, a Tygerdal resident posted a complaint on a neighbourhood WhatsApp group about a “racket” which she said came from the Buren Street house.

Kasteel Crescent resident Daniel Lategan said as far as he was aware, the properties, which are both a block away from where he rents a house, had been empty for more than three years, since he moved into the area.

He had seen movement outside the properties but not enough for him to believe anyone lived there.

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Mr Lategan said he would see people on the property, or a car stopping for a few minutes and leaving again.

Mr Lategan said the houses are in a poor state.

“Both houses are quite dilapidated compared to the houses in Tygerdal. This is because no one is maintaining it. All the property owners in the area paint their homes, and look after it well,” he said.

Mr Lategan is worried the houses might attract criminals, making it unsafe for residents.

He said at the house in Nassau Street, there had been some “dodgy” cars which move in and out of the area, and the first thing that came to his mind, he said, was that it could be a drug house.

He said he drew this conclusion from seeing different cars pulling up at the house.

However, Mr Lategan said he cannot confirm whether it is a drug house or not, but said that raises a red flag in his mind.

Mr Lategan questioned why the houses are standing vacant.

“Who is paying for the property? It is definitely a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“I think they should rent the houses to people, as there is such a great demand for rentals,” said Mr Lategan.

He said the house can also become a target for vandalism. Mr Lategan, however, was not aware of any cases of vandalism up to this point. “Who will pay for the damages, if no one uses the property?” asked Mr Lategan.

Another Tygerdal resident, Carina Maddix, who is actively involved in the community, said the Tygerdal Neighbourhood Watch has had some unconfirmed reports from residents about people sleeping in the houses.

Ms Maddix lives a block away in Freesia Street.

“I am aware that some of the properties used to have security guards on the premises too.”

However, Ms Maddix had no details about the security company, as they are no longer there.

“My only concern is that it might be seen as an opportunity for vagrants to make it their new home and or break-ins that might happen. If it is for use of SAPS, it should then be used in that way or either rented out to the public as it can be a way of income too,” she said.

Jaleel Kariel lives in Nassau Street and says it has been empty since late last year.

A police family had lived in the home, he said, but since they moved out there had been no sign of occupation.

He now fears the home poses a security risk to his family.

“We have seen people go in and out of the property, and, on one occasion, I chased a guy away, but we can’t do anything as our lives are in danger,” said Mr Kariel.

He said every week he sees people moving in and out of the property. Mr Kariel believes it is only a matter of time before vagrants move in.

“They roam the area and watch the houses. What if eventually they break in, and start living there? Our children won’t be able to play outside.

“Already we have to curb the children because it’s unsafe,” said Mr Kariel.

Another Tygerdal resident, Vaughn Cerff said his concern is around the safety of those residents who live next to the vacant properties.

“Nothing has happened as yet but as a community we need to be mindful of this as it could become a problem,” said Mr Cerff.

Dirk van der Berg, the owner of Goodwood Armed Patrols, said they were aware of the two empty houses and there had been a few break-ins and theft of wiring and taps. He said the houses had been empty for more than a year.

The most recent theft case had been two weeks ago, which Goodwood Armed Patrols responded to when a passer-by called to inform them.

Mr Van der Berg said they immediately responded but by the time they got there, the thieves had already left.

“These houses are definitely a security risk for the community. You see more and more homeless people in the area, as they use the houses to sleep in,” said Mr Van der Berg.

He added that the houses used to have a security company watching them, but said they are no longer there.

Mr Van der Berg was unable to provide any further information.

Thami Mchunu, the director for media and stakeholder relations for the Department of Public Works, confirmed that the houses are state-owned, and said it has been allocated and used by SAPS.

Mr Mchunu said the homes were used for accommodation, adding that the police officials vacated the houses and have recently requested that the houses be handed back to the national Department of Public Works.

“The houses have already been offered to other national government departments,” said Mr Mchunu.