There are about 98 000 people living in backyard dwellings in Eersteriver, Cape Town. This is according to Jeanefer Visser, a landlord and the chair of the Eersteriver Backyarders Association, who has been collecting data on these households since 2020.

Visser and other volunteers in the association hope the data will help create a more accurate picture of the community and improve living conditions for backyarders.

The rapid urbanisation in densely populated areas like Eersteriver has made accessing basic municipal services, such as water and electricity, a challenge for these families.

Visser said most of the disagreements between backyard tenants and homeowners stem from arguments over billing and use of municipal services.

“If we look into separate billing [for backyard tenants], then the tenants will be obligated to pay for their own water and electricity. This way no one can claim to be crooked. If the backyarder doesn’t have money, the landlord shouldn’t have to foot the bill either,” said Visser.

Approximately 26 people living in the backyard of a house in Maitland Garden Village. Most of the tenants are unemployed and do not pay rent regularly. There is one toilet and one outside tap for the families to share. It has also been said that the water from the outside tap is a brown-yellow colour thus questioning the quality of sanitation these families are subjected to.

According to GroundUp, about eight years ago, the City started improving conditions at backyard dwellings at municipal-owned rentals. It did this by providing households with access to basic municipal services like installing taps, toilets and electricity metres.

Since 2014, more than 3,000 water and sanitation points have been installed in backyard dwellings.

Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi said the backyarder programme is “underway in areas across the metro”. An estimated 600 households are expected to receive municipal services in the next three years, he said.

Booi said R40-million has been allocated from the Human Settlements Directorate budget for upgrades to informal settlements and backyarder services over the next three years. He urged private landlords and tenants to insist on getting written contracts stipulating their roles, responsibilities, rights and requirements.

He said many backyard residents are not registered on any of its housing needs registers and therefore do not qualify when a housing opportunity becomes available.

It is “imperative for all backyard dwellers to register on the City’s Housing Needs Register,” Booi said.

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Picture: Cape {town} Etc gallery

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