The Cape Town City Council is ignoring its own by-law which bans holiday letting in apartment blocks, by allowing illegal rogue ‘hotels’ to operate openly despite formal complaints from ratepayers. This is according to Louisa Theart, spokesperson for citizen action group One Host One Home (OHOH).
“Numerous official complaints have been made to the city council about the rising incidence of holiday letting businesses such as rogue ‘hotels’ and absentee owners letting apartments and other properties to holidaymakers for short stays,” she said. “Holiday letting in Cape Town is totally out of control and yet city authorities are sitting back and doing nothing. Cities around the world have introduced various forms of controls to protect the interests of permanent residents but Cape Town authorities seem paralysed. Are they scared of frightening away tourists as they did with the Day Zero water debacle?”
She adds: “Both Clr Brett Herron and city official Gregory September have been quoted in the media to the effect that an existing by-law bans holiday letting unless a property owner has applied for and received permission from the city to holiday let.”
Theart stated that some wealthy owners of multiple apartments have opted to reject long-term rental leases in favour of holiday letting, electing to keep the apartments empty rather than let them to Cape Town residents seeking permanent accommodation.
“I challenge city officials to attempt to secure an apartment in the city or the Atlantic Seaboard at an affordable monthly rental,” she said. “Not only are we as ratepayers earning reasonable incomes being forced to move further away from town, we are also unable to afford to buy an apartment in any of these areas.
“I appreciate that other factors come into play in driving up prices, but uncontrolled holiday letting has been recognised internationally as an important variable in the equation. That is among the reasons why numerous cities around the world have taken action.”
Theart said that OHOH fully supports the right of apartment owners who live permanently on site to let a room or rooms in their flats to holidaymakers and other guests. Holiday rentals can also provide income streams for people in disadvantaged communities.
“There are numerous examples of acceptable types of controls that have been implemented elsewhere in the world to better manage holiday letting. At the very least all property owners who undertake holiday letting should register with the city and should pay a fee. In addition, there should be a limit on the number of days any apartment owner can let rooms to holidaymakers. Property owners who transgress should be liable for heavy fines and should be banned from holiday letting for a lengthy period.”
She points out that permanent residents in apartment blocks in which holiday letting is being undertaken illegally have their security severely compromised, their sense of community is shattered by strangers, consumable costs for water and power rise substantially, and they could be liable for increased insurance to cover the possibility of holidaymakers being injured in common areas. In addition, rogue ‘hotels’ and other apartment blocks in which holiday letting is rife do not have high levels of fire and safety systems in place.
“At what point will the Cape Town authorities be galvanized into action? Will it take serious injury or a fire in a rogue holiday letting ‘hotel’ before the city reacts?” asked Theart. “Thousands of Cape Town’s permanent residents are being impacted by the city’s intransigence.
“OHOH is not the only organisation calling on the city to discuss the issue of holiday letting. Alan Winde, the Western Cape’s MEC for Tourism, has called for a conference to be attended by mayors and the hospitality industry to discuss the impacts of holiday letting.”
Want to get involved? Contact Louisa Theart on 082 827 6290
By: Blake Wilkins