Elderly may have to pay rent if council has its way

Elderly hands. File picture
Elderly hands. File picture
Image: Pixabay.com

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is mulling over the idea of charging the old folk in three of the city’s northern areas old age homes for rent and electricity.

If agreed to by the council, they could be charged R336 for rent at the Elizabeth Stuurman, Adcock, and Bethelsdorp homes and a flat rate of R200 for electricity, starting July 1.

This was discussed at the human settlements portfolio committee on Friday.

Currently, pensioners living at the old age homes are not paying any rent, while those living at the Uitenhage old age homes fork out an average R336 every month.

Should the city forge ahead with implementing the tariff, the municipality would get about R2-million in revenue.

Councillors said they felt that some of the tenants would not be able to afford to pay the fees as they relied on their state pension of R1 600 a month.

In that case, the city’s indigent policy should apply, according to human settlements portfolio head Nqaba Bhanga, who said the municipality’s budget and treasury department should consider it.

This would mean that those who are not able to afford to pay the total R536 be exempted as part of the city’s Assistance To The Poor (ATTP) programme.

“The proposal is that we request officials to see if there is any way that we can apply the city’s indigent policy. I feel taking R360 from the elderly is way too much.

“If it were up to me they would not pay, but we have to abide by the law.”

Bhanga said they would remove the amount from the report tabled on Friday and instead say the indigent policy should be applied.

“The intention is to make sure that we reduce the burden of paying for the elderly, but whatever we do, we should do it within the context of the law.”
“I can’t say they must not pay anything, while the law is saying that if they stay there and use services they must pay.”

Human settlements executive director Nolwandle Gqiba warned that if the council did not agree on a tariff, the old age homes would not be able to fill the 15 vacant units.

“Our recommendation is that budget and treasury takes a decision based on what they are earning. We assume that everybody who is staying there earns a flat rate of R1600,” Gqiba said.

Based on the rate, the budget and treasury department should determine how much the residents should be charged.

“The issue is that as human settlements we do not determine the fees, that is done by budget and treasury; we can only recommend,” Gqiba said.

In the report, the budget and treasury department said that it had perused the report and agreed with the recommendations.

“In preparation for taking over the operations of the council-owned old age homes, the tenants were expected to pay an agreed-upon monthly rental.”

Gqiba further said the rental fee should have been implemented in the 2016-17 financial year already.

DA councillor Trevor Louw said he agreed with the proposal.

“We feel that our senior citizens have done their part in terms of paying, [and we must] show that we are a caring city and we are willing to give them a safe place to live,” Louw said.

ANC councillor Nomsa Booi said they did not agree with having the elderly pay rent.