MDGA: A unique homeowners’ association for a unique area

If you’re wondering why the Marina − unlike its neighbouring suburbs – has its own homeowners’ association then read on…

The history of the Marina da Gama Association (MDGA) began around half a century ago, when three large tranches of land were subdivided into just over 1 300 erven to form Marina da Gama.

When the Administrator of the Cape consented to this subdivision, he imposed a condition that would be incorporated into the transfer deeds under which each erf within the Marina is held. This condition stipulated that the owner of each erf would become a member of the Eastlake Association, now the MDGA. In turn, each member is required to comply with the MDGA’s constitution. Owners of sectional title units are also bound by this condition because they are joint owners of the erf on which their units are built.

This, in summary, explains why the Marina da Gama – unlike our neighbouring suburbs – has its own homeowners’ association, the MDGA.

The MDGA’s constitution, which you can access here or from the MDGA office, sets out the association’s aims and acts as the mechanism for managing the Marina’s daily affairs. Among other provisions, the constitution allows erven and sectional title holders to elect an Executive Committee (ExCom) at general meetings; and for the appointment of an Architectural Committee (Archcom) to regulate the design of buildings within the Marina.
We strongly recommend that all homeowners and prospective buyers read a copy of the constitution to understand how the MDGA runs different aspects of Marina life and how residents can get involved as an ExCom member or volunteer.

How the MDGA manages planning and building requirements

We often receive inquiries about how the planning and building requirements laid out in our design manual relate to national building and local authority planning regulations.
Under the MDGA’s constitution, the requirements of our design manual are a binding contract between the homeowner and the MDGA, which homeowners automatically belong to. This is common for most homeowners’ associations.

The requirements of the National Building Regulations (NBR) apply throughout the whole of the country and are mandatory. Local authority planning requirements – in our case, those issued by the City of Cape Town (CoCT) – relate to the overall planning requirements derived from national requirements covering spatial planning and land use management. Accordingly, the CoCT’s Municipal Planning By-Law (MPBL) includes a Development Management Scheme (DMS), which covers spatial planning, land use and land zoning.

The MDGA is unique in Cape Town as the only homeowners’ association in the city with its own Overlay Zone LAO/08. This requires the MDGA to comment on planning applications specifically for this zone.

Homeowners are required to submit their plans to the MDGA for our approval in terms of the design manual and our comments in terms of the overlay zone. Plans are then submitted to the CoCT for approval in terms of the NBR and the MPBL. Once this process is complete, plans are stamped and returned to the applicant.

But where does the authority of the MDGA’s approval process lie?

The CoCT has stated that the design manual requirements are a private contract between the MDGA and its members. As such, the MDGA has the right – regardless of any approval given by the CoCT – to apply to the courts to interdict against building works that do not comply with our design manual. The courts have supported the MDGA and other homeowners’ associations in recent cases. Our constitution details the recovery of costs that apply in such cases. These costs are high and could exceed the cost of the proposed works.

If there are acceptable and specific reasons why plans should not conform with the design manual, our constitution lays down an appeal process and waivers may be granted. Overall, however, the design manual’s requirements are not excessively restrictive and help to maintain the design standards that persuaded homeowners to buy here in the first place.

In a recent survey, the overwhelming majority of respondents supported the enforcement of the design manual. By complying with our constitution and design manual, homeowners can help to ensure the financial and aesthetic value of property in our area keeps increasing to everyone’s benefit.