Long standing local residents of the Bo-Kaap are clambering to hold onto their homes as property rates increase and investment markets turn on the heat in order to obtain their houses.

Bo-Kapp is nestled in the corner of the City Bowl and offers an authentic Cape Malay cultural experience right in the city centre – it is safe to say that Cape Town would not be the same without this iconically vibrant neighbourhood.

Well-known for its rich history and culture, Bo-Kaap is a place where many residents inherited their homes.  With recent developments along the area, Bo-Kaap is becoming prime real-estate and international investors are bidding to obtain property or land in the district. Property has obtained a higher value than ever before, causing property rates to increase rapidly. Locals are unable to keep up with the increasing property rates as their wages account for the bare minimum. Combined with the increasing gentrification and opposing protests – residents fear losing their homes along with their heritage as Bo-Kaap is one of the oldest Muslim communities in the country.

Increasing property rates

International investors are focused on the property value and numbers. Many buyers are interested in purchasing the house, flipping it and selling it to the highest bidder. A lifelong resident, Shamil Jassiem shares his grievances with GroundUp, ““Investors are not interested in you and your history and your culture. All they want to do is buy the houses, renovate them and sell them for more a year later,”

In a world where we are increasingly alert about strangers, the Bo-kaap offers a sense of community that echoes the principle of ‘ubuntu’ – where residents can rely on one another for a helping hand. “I will never leave this place because everybody knows everybody and it’s a safe place to stay. If I fall sick in the road they will know exactly where I stay and who to contact” says resident Faiza Larney.

A the age of 68-years and retired, residents such as Larney are having to pay property rates that amount to R 6000.00. Larney’s only source of income is her pension which amounts to R4300 both government and private pension are included in this. Property rates do not include water, electricity, sanitation and refuse collection – meaning that residents must fork out more money that they do not have. Many residents are currently in arrears with their rent causing the option of selling tempting.

The City of Cape Town is encouraging pensioners and lower income bracket earners and residents in the Bo-Kaap to apply for the city’s rebate. The rebate functions to provide financial relief but residents are struggling to obtain this, “I went to the Civic Centre twice to try and pay my rates and to apply for rebates. Each time they tell me something different,” says Larney.

Property valuations

Properties have risen in value by 11 – 12% over two decades with property being purchased in 1999 at R200 000, now valued at R 1.3 million. The overall increase in value can be attributed to the method of marketing, geographical location and beneficial investment output. Chairperson of Bo-Kaap Civic Ratepayers association Osman Shaboodien shared, “Property sales are spurned by marketing. Bo-Kaap for instance is sold as a quaint, historical place with cobblestone streets and old Dutch houses. Nothing is said about the makeup of the community, the noise, the limited space.”

Even with the pressure of potential buyers, residents are refusing to leave their community, “My whole history is here, I have got no interest in moving anywhere else. I want to live here and when my time comes I want to die here” says Jassiem.

The people of Bo-Kaap are now faced with a daunting situation – to sell their house, heritage, history and culture for financial comfort or turn away buyers and work more than one job to cover the basic costs of staying in their homes.


Picture: Pixabay

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