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R21m in Joburg retroactively ‘refusing recalculation’ bills challenged in court

The City of Johannesburg (CoJ) and contracted garbage collector Pikitup will face a high court against a retroactive R21 million backdated bill for waste recalculation for nearly 100 bills.

The application must be made by the Johannesburg Property Owners and Managers Association (JPOMA), which believes that the recalculation and retroactive amounts are both invalid and illegal in terms of the city’s own statutes.

The punitive amount was established by recalculating the waste with retroactive effect to 2018 on 93 different accounts.

Angela Rivers, managing director of JPOMA, a non-profit organization that represents the interests of property owners and managers and more than 150,000 tenant households in Johannesburg – who together pay the city more than R80 million each month – said one of the their members has already received a preliminary injunction against the CoJ

Rivers said JPOMA is in the process of launching an application that will challenge the legality of the CoJ’s behavior.

“The petition to the court has not yet been filed. We are in the process of finalizing the application, including other applicants who have expressed an interest in joining the application,” she said.

The other applicants who are considering joining the legal proceedings have not been named.

Attempts to get comment from the SA Owners’ Association (Sapoa) were unsuccessful.

‘Tip of the iceberg’

Rivers said the recalculated R21 million bill and the number of bills affected by this process is “the tip of the iceberg.”

“These billed costs afterwards”[s] continue to grow month by month as more members come forward when they see this on their account.

“Instead of involving our members in finding an equitable solution, the CoJ uses powerful tactics to intimidate owners into signing IOUs or facing the shutdown of other services that have nothing to do with garbage collection.” see,” she said.

Rivers said the accounts of association members affected by the city’s actions relate to 7,333 separate downtown homes that are home to lower- and middle-income renters.

She said many of these tenants are economically vulnerable and unable to pay three and a half years’ worth of “dubious delinquency”.

Rivers added that as CoJ completes its backdating process, more and more of these tenants will end up with garbage bills they can’t pay, seriously jeopardizing the affordable rental market.

She said the recalculations stemmed from a “revenue enhancement project” initiated by the City of Johannesburg through its Legogo team.

This has resulted in the classification of the properties involved being changed without consultation with the owners, or the need to think consistently about how properties and their waste requirements are differentiated, she said.

Rivers said JPOMA believes this resulted in a blatantly misclassification in many of the cases, with vague or no substantiation.

She said properties worth less than R350,000 are not liable for these fees and claims the CoJ is trying to put costs on every single unit regardless of value and refund claims for waste that has already been removed and paid for. to turn.

Urban development goals ignored?

Rivers said JPOMA members affected include several emerging black entrepreneurs, who in many cases will be forced to downsize or liquidate if the retroactive effect is implemented.

She added that most of the affected buildings fall within the urban development zones (UDZs) delineated by the government for tax incentives as part of the national economic policy initiative designed to strengthen downtown hubs.

Rivers said JPOMA members have been active participants in the City Improvement Districts (CIDs), which were established in the mid-1990s to stave off the degradation and decay that plagued the downtown area.

“Instead of appreciating our members doing the job CoJ is supposed to do, it’s trying to squeeze more water out of the rock,” she said.

For example, Rivers said JPOMA members voluntarily contribute more than R630,000 a month to private companies to clean and secure downtown public areas, which the city has not done in several years.

She said CoJ’s action means owners will be held accountable for the bills of tenants who, in many cases, have since moved out of the various properties, meaning costs cannot be covered.

“The knock-on effect will be that there will be a reduction in the quality housing supply in the inner city, reducing the ability of Johannesburg residents to work and live nearby, as was the explicit intention behind the creation of the USPS in the first place.

“This short-sightedness will lead to the city actually losing paying tenants, as these people will move into informal housing where no services are paid.

“No one wins in this situation.”

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