BY MART-MARIÉ SERFONTEIN
A recent post on the Facebook group Stellenbosch Accommodation had many students incensed. On 4 October, Johan Fourie, one of the members on the Facebook group who posts about accommodation that he has for rent, posted a message to all students, warning them that they will no longer be able to live in Welgevonden Residential Estate from next year. In his post, Fourie wrote that “students sharing a house in Welgevonden Estate will…not be legal anymore and the rules will be enforced from next year”.
Welgevonden Estate is located roughly 8–12 minutes outside of Stellenbosch, depending on traffic and the route taken; and is a popular place for students to live, especially older students who have their own transport. The prices of units in Welgevonden are usually cheaper than housing on campus, which is the reason for its allure.
In the post, Fourie mentions zoning bylaws of Stellenbosch Municipality (“the Municipality”) and the definition of “family” as per the by-law. The by-law Fourie mentions can be found in the Provincial Gazette Extraordinary 8153, and contains the Stellenbosch Municipality Zoning Scheme by-law, 2019, which has been in effect since 1 November that year.
In short, the definition is divided into three categories: the first describes a family unit consisting of one breadwinner who maintains a common household with or without dependants; the second describes a family unit wherein two or more persons are legally married whilst maintaining one common household with or without dependants; and the third category describes a family unit of “no more than two unrelated and independent persons (with no dependents) who earn or receive independent income and who maintain a common household”.
Furthermore, Welgevonden has been zoned as a Conventional Residential zone in accordance with the by-law, which means that all properties within the Estate may only be occupied by a “family” as defined in the by-law.
This then means that the problem for students lies in the third category of the definition of “family”, as it has the effect of only two students being allowed to live on a property in Welgevonden. Up until now, it has been commonplace that three or more students shared living spaces in the estate.
Stuart Grobbelaar, Communications Manager for the Office of the Municipal Manager of Stellenbosch, had the following to say: “No rules have changed. Approval has always had to be obtained for the accommodation of any persons unrelated to the family occupying the property, including but not limited to students.”
He went on to say that, “On 1 November 2019, the Municipality did adopt a new zoning scheme that changed the mechanisms for obtaining these approvals. In the new scheme, a maximum of two unrelated persons may live together in a dwelling unit, and it no longer has to be together with a family. If more than two unrelated persons share a dwelling unit, a consent use must be applied for and approval must be obtained for a commune.”
Anneke Stroebel, Office Manager for Welgevonden Estate, said that the Facebook post “was not posted by Welgevonden management, and expresses a general, un-informed view about a far more complicated matter”.
She explained further that the properties in the estate are all subject to a wide range of legislation that regulates various aspects of life within it.
“In terms of its Constitution, the homeowners’ association shares the responsibility to ensure that the rules and regulations set out in the said legislation, are complied with,” Stroebel explained.
She wanted to reaffirm that rental accommodation for students is allowed in Welgevonden, but only if it complies with all applicable legislation, including the Stellenbosch Municipality’s Zoning Scheme By-law.
When asked about the by-law, Gawie Marx, Estate Manager at Welgevonden said, “The Estate and all owners of property within the Estate have a duty to abide by the Municipal by-laws, as well as the rules of the Estate itself.”
He explained that when a person buys a property and signs the deed, they also undertake to adhere to the rules of the Estate. He goes further to say that all residents of Welgevonden need to be kept in mind.
“What has happened in the past is that owners have rented out rooms in their units and it was the parking that became an issue,” explained Marx.
He said that density has become a problem and spoke of instances last year where there had been emergencies requiring ambulances and the Fire Services, and due to the multitude of cars parked in the roads outside of units, the emergency services could not properly reach those in need.
Marx also mentioned that property value is another aspect that must be kept in mind. In essence, Marx held that if the rules are not kept to, the value of the estate and the properties in it would decrease, which would be detrimental. “If you have five or six people living in a house it will later start to look like a squatter camp.”
A resident of Welgevonden, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that the zoning bylaws do not specifically affect her and her family, but that students living in Welgevonden do. “Especially first- and second-year students who party more than they study, which can become a nuisance with noise late at night.”
She mentioned the fact that the houses are built close together, as well as recent cases of students socialising in the park without cleaning up after themselves, leaving cigarettes and empty bottles behind; however, she also mentioned that because most of the units in Welgevonden have three or more bedrooms, it does become difficult for homeowners to find tenants that fit into the definition of a “family”.
“There are also many more young working people, small families and retirees living here than students. For example, two years ago there were probably five houses around us where students lived and now there is only one,” said the resident. “I think it’s going to have to do with respect for your neighbors and the estate you live on in the end.”