Concern over increase in backyard dwellers

Lynn Williams

RESIDENTS of Nelson Mandela Bay’s Korsten and Schauderville have expressed concern over the growing number of backyard dwellers in the area. This follows findings of an initial survey, lasting more than a year, which they presented to the municipality.

With the number of backyard dwellers on the increase, residents have now formed a committee to assess and ultimately find solutions to the problem.

Backyard dwellers literally live on the space that is supposed to form the yard of a particular homestead. Usually they construct structures such as shacks or put a wendy house or caravan on that space. In most cases, the owners of the main homestead are family of those living in the backyard shacks.

Most backyard dwellers pay rent even though some do not have a steady or permanent income. Depending on the size of the structure, rent is anything between R200 and R600 a month.

Chairman of the newly formed Backyard Dwellers Committee, Edward Camealio, said they conducted a survey to determine exactly how many people were living in backyards.

“We started the survey a year ago by going to every house in every street. We were shocked to learn that there are well over 500 families who are backyard dwellers.

“After we captured all the information it was handed over to the municipality in order for them to capture these people into their housing database.”

The survey also found out that 40% of backyard dwellers were elderly people who have never owned a house.

“This problem is a generational issue that came about since the 1990 northern areas uprising,” Camealio said.

He said the next step of the survey would be to determine who qualified for an RDP home or for social housing.

Sisters Michelle Williams and Judith Bell have been living in their aunt’s backyard for the past 12 years. Williams and her three children share a four- roomed wooden structure with Bell’s husband and their son.

“Jointly we pay R300 rent per month and R250 for electricity. We get water from the main house and we all make use of the outside toilet.

“The situation is not ideal, but it is all we can afford,” Williams said.

Ward Councillor Isaac Adams said upon completion of the survey he had sent numerous letters to mayor Zanoxolo Wayile and other municipal officials inviting them to discuss and find solutions to the problem.

“In this area there are empty pockets of land that could be utilised for housing purposes. Building houses here would be ideal. The area already has infrastructure like a clinic, shopping facilities, schools, a community hall, sports field and other amenities,” Adams said.

Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said the metro’s estimate of backyard dwellers could be about 49 000 but he ruled out evicting them.

“[Eliminating] backyard dwellers does form part of the metro’s responsibility and they are included in the overall plan for housing delivery,” he said.

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