Hazendal residents stand up to the challenges

Residents of the Hazendal housing project have started a community organisation to address their concerns.

Residents of the Hazendal housing project have established a community organisation to address challenges in their area as a collective, as they believe this will make their voices stronger.

The New Era Community Organisation (NECO) is led by Alfonzo Kayser, who said he was mandated to speak on behalf of the community to address issues affecting them.

The latest issue was a blocked sewer, which they say the City of Cape Town took three weeks to repair.

Mr Kayser said children had to play amid a stench for all this time, and the blockage caused the sewage to come up through the plumbing in residents’ homes.

He added that they had waited so long for assistance, despite residents having lodged various complaints, making a list of the reference numbers they had been given. Mr Kayser said the community was grateful for Ward 49 councillor Rashid Adams’ intervention, as his appeals to the City eventually got a team out to do the repairs.

Mayoral committee member for utility services Ernest Sonnenberg apologised, saying the fault had not been immediately attended to because of an “administrative error”.

Other concerns raised by Neco include the lack of air vents in their homes, road levels being higher than the houses, the lack of gutters, and that the couplings of water meters were above the ground (and in some instances, situated directly in front of doors).

But Benedicta van Minnen, mayoral committee member for human settlements, said air vents were not specified and not recommended as part of the minimum housing specifications for houses built with cement blocks, as this would cause dampness.

“According to SANS XA 10400 regulations, houses have to be as airtight as possible for energy efficiency. It is therefore not a requirement to install air vents,” she said.

Gutters were also not a minimum requirement, but “concrete aprons have been provided to minimise erosion around the house”. Ms Van Minnen advised the community to address all building quality issues with the developer, the Mellon Housing Initiative, or the project manager at the site office.

The organisation also claimed that 70 percent of the water pipes in their community had already burst, and that the City wasted thousands of litres of water, because it took up to seven hours to respond, after complaints were lodged. Mr Sonnenberg, however, denied this. “The only defects reported to the Water and Sanitation Department were two vandalised fire hydrants and two leaking water meters. There was also large-scale theft of water infrastructure in the area while the site lay dormant, resulting in a number of leaks. As of Monday September 12, however, all leaks had been repaired and the network was fully intact as far as we are aware. As yet, no burst pipes have been reported to us.”

Mr Kayser said that in some households, when a stove was plugged in, no other electrical device could be used. “We are grateful for what we have. We are happy that we have homes. We just want the City to comply with regulations and to communicate with us. We are currently working well with Mellon to address construction flaws, but it seems the City does not want to work with us,” Mr Kayser said.

In response to this, Ms Van Minnen said: “Residents are reminded that there is a formal process for complaints. This process requires the complaints to be recorded at the site office, so that the contractor can deal with any latent defects. Reporting complaints to a civic body will not solve the problem.”

She added: “The homes at Hazendal were constructed in accordance with building regulations, minimum standards and specifications. Each house receives a standard basic electrical installation comprising a prepaid meter with a distribution board, lights and plugs to all living areas. The units all have a minimum of 20 amps installed and beneficiaries can upgrade their electricity supply at their own expense if the supply is not sufficient.”

Ms Van Minnen also said there was a three-month maintenance period after the houses had been handed over.

“All outstanding snags are handled within this period. Outstanding snags will only be attended to if residents report them to the contractor’s office and the community liaison officer. Once all snags on the houses have been attended to and signed off by the contractor, the City and the Western Cape government, a final unit report (FUR) is issued by the National Home Builder’s Registration Council (NHBRC) on completion of the house, following which the beneficiaries will be responsible for the house maintenance.”

The first residents moved into their homes on Tuesday May 31 (“Residents overjoyed at housing hand over”, Athlone News, June 8), but just a month later, they complained about shoddy workmanship (“Housing joy short-lived,” Athlone News, July 6).