Redeeming Land

Redeeming Land

It’s easy to find ourselves overwhelmed by the extent of inequality, immobilized by the politics or simply unsure about what we could be doing- if you’ve felt like that- then this is where you can start! Read how people who share the pews with you are responding to Christ in all kinds of places and ways.

Adam and Rachel

Why We Tried to Help

When Adam and his family began to consider ways that they could share their privilege with Rachel and her family, they recognised the agency they had- specifically to borrow money from banks or family. They were also aware of the social capital that they had with lots of different people who have lots of different skills. Finally, they understood that they should be making those privileges available to people from under-resourced areas, starting with those people who work with and for them.

How We Tried to Help

Important context: Rachel is employed by Adam 3 days a week as a domestic worker, and they’ve been working together for the last 10 years.

Helping started with Adam and his family being connectors. Not saviours. You see, Rachel found herself in a dispute with her neighbour about the boundary lines of her property (an RDP house in Masi). Neither Adam, nor his wife, knew anything about settling the dispute- but they reached out to friends who did and successfully connected Rachel with people who had the skills and knowledge to sort out the situation at hand. This is an example of harnessing their network for the benefit of others.

The next thing that happened was that Adam and his wife helped Rachel access finances. They did this through an interest-free personal loan to Rachel, with the money being channelled into developing the property she had. The idea was to build additional rooms on the land and rent them out, creating a passive income (once the loan was paid off).

It began as loan of R 50 000 which Adam lent to Rachel -he borrowed the money from some of his own friends. As soon as the money was advanced to Rachel, the building project began over weekends. Local builders in the community were employed to do the building over weekends (Rachel’s husband is a painter and so was able to rally people in his network as contractors to complete the work). The project took 2 months to complete, during that period Rachel was not expected to begin paying back the loan. Once the rooms were built and occupied, Rachel was able to begin repayments on the loan from Adam. While she paid it back by simply receiving a lower salary from Adam, the income from rentals supplemented her ‘lowered’ salary so that she was still clearing the same amount each month while paying back the loan.

Two years after that initial loan was paid off, Rachel realised that she could do it again. Another loan (this time from the bond that Adam had on his own home), another payment plan and 4 more units on her property. The combined income of these units is now in the region of 12k each month- an amount that Rachel can channel into an RA, savings or whatever she chooses. Her first loan is paid back, her second one will be paid back by the end of 2019 and she continues to work with Adam and his family as a domestic worker, but with an additional income that enables her to work 3 days a week and hone her skills as a landlady. She is also able to send her youngest child to a better school (an encouragement from Adam and his wife).

Tom, Becky and their Bible Study

Why We Tried to Help

Tom and Becky took a really long time to find an internet service that was reliable and that they could afford in their rented apartment in Rondebosch, they struggled for ages with dodgy connections when it rained and realised how frustrating it must be for students who had even more financial limitations. The plan they settled on was an ‘uncapped’ one, but they both have full time jobs so their flat (and internet) were unused in office hours. Becky became increasingly aware of how the exam seasons were becoming more and more stressful for many of the students in their bible study group, especially as they entered 2nd and then 3rd year studies. One of their group was working and studying at the same time, and was given ‘study leave ‘ by his company but in most cases people in their group studied in the library which could get crowded, have slow internet and often actually bred more stress (and sometimes distractions) from being around other people panicking about the upcoming exams

How We Tried to Help

Important Context: Tom and Becky are married and lead a bible study group which meets in their flat on Wednesday evenings. They’ve built close friendships with the people in their bible study, and many of them are students at nearby campuses.

Armed with a great internet connection, dining room table, and kettle Tom and Becky created an open house in their tiny flat for their friends to study. During exams, their flat became a mini-library with prayer meetings at the start of the day and quiet study, aided by access to their internet and a safe, conducive revision environment was established. Because they lived close to a few university campuses, it was fairly easy for their home to be a middle ground between student residences and campus. For Tom and Becky it was an easy way to share their privilege of living in a central area and being able to afford the internet.

Craig, Diana and Mary

Why We Tried to Help

Craig and Diana received some money from an inheritance and decided to give a percentage to help someone in need.

How We Tried to Help

Important Context: Craig and Diana’s domestic worker, Mary lived in Langa in a shack with her daughter Susan who has respiratory problems and was frequently ill. Then Mary and Susan moved to Philippi to live with Mary’s sister, whilst Mary had her name on a waiting-list for a government house. After 12 or so years of waiting and following up with the local municipality, Mary concluded that the house she was waiting for was unlikely to materialize.

Craig and Diana joined hands with another family who also employed Mary (their daughter and her husband) and were able to discuss the situation as a family with Mary, as all parties really wanted to find a solution to help her.
Essentially, they were able to generate sufficient funds to buy a small brick house in Philippi. Mary was tasked with finding a property within the budget available. She did found a property for which the seller had title deeds for the house to be sold, a critical factor.

The total budget was R 250 000 of which Mary was asked to pay back R50k which was financed as an interest free loan. The thinking behind this was to give Mary the dignity of knowing that she had contributed towards the payment of her house and that it was not given as a “ hand out.” The purchase and transfer was done through an attorney’s practice ( the costs being factored into the the gross funding generated) and the property was registered at the deeds office in Mary’s name.

The process was not uncomplicated for a host of reasons including compliance certificates and so on. That said, Mary and Susan now have a home which is dry, has electricity and plumbing and which can be improved as and when Mary can afford renovation costs.
It may be a small step to help a family have their own home, but it is a step forward.

Maria, Solomon, their colleagues and their community.

Why We Tried to Help

Important Context: Maria and Solomon are a married couple who wanted to enter the property market; specifically, they wanted to buy a property investment near the City which they could live in longer term (if they needed more room as their family grew). 

However, they didn’t want to move into the property immediately- they felt it would be wasteful for the 2 of them to stay in a home where rooms would be unused. As they pondered this investment step and space dilemma, they realised that many people in their church and friendship context were really struggling to find property to rent that was a) affordable, b) safe and c) would accept children. They had previously experimented with assisting friends when they were short on rent but knew that this was not a healthy or sustainable option that honoured both parties.

Why We Tried to Help

After some searching and prayer, Maria and Solomon found a property which they thought may work. They decided to take the plunge, buy it and rent out the four rooms (at around 50% of the current market rate for a short-term option) to 4 families in urgent need of housing. This gave those families a place from which to search for their next home, but also meant that Maria and Solomon could vouch for them to their next landlord.

Maria and Solomon realised that they would need to help find alternative housing options for these families, but they had run out of personal funds and the ability to raise finance from the bank. They discussed the idea with some work colleagues and, together, they decided to buy two flats in a location near the City through a company structure which enabled them to get the additional bonds.

They rented the two new separate two-bedroom flats to two of the families that were in the previous house. Each paid between 40-60% of the market rental based on what each family could afford and each flat had a separate room for their children which was a real blessing. Maria and Solomon assisted the third family in renting a granny flat on another friend’s property by signing surety for their rent and paying a deposit and the fourth family managed to find alternative accommodation themselves.

Through a journey with the Council, Maria and Solomon were able to get approval to divide the initial house into two units with separate entrances and rented a two bedroom unit to a family and a one bedroom unit to a young couple for around 50% and 70% of market rental each once again based on how much the tenants could afford, not what the market dictated.

While Maria and Solomon are still on a journey of learning how to make accommodation more accessible to others they are fully aware that they have not always made the right decisions- nor have their tenants. As a couple, and as a community, all parties (tenants, colleagues, husband and wife) have always needed grace for each other.

It goes without saying that it is hard at times. Mixing business, friends and church can get messy and they have needed to have many sensitive meetings to mediate situations, discuss and pray through issues with their friends who are also tenants. Maria and Solomon would prefer it if they didn’t have these extra dynamics to consider in their friendships BUT they’ve made a conscious decision that their comfort, convenience and preference cannot trump what they feel God is calling them to do. Finally, upon reflection, Maria and Solomon still feel strongly convinced that God has been in all of this and brought huge blessing to both the families, as well as themselves in the process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *