Housing joy short-lived

Elize Daniels shares her concerns about the stagnant water in her road with Alrick Harris and Muriel Susa.

Only a month after moving in, beneficiaries of the Hazendal Housing Project are complaining about the quality of their houses.

These residents were among the first to move in at this City of Cape Town development, which, when complete, will have 153 houses, worth R25 million. By the end of August, the City plans to hand over the remaining 77 houses.

Among their concerns include blocked sewerage systems; damp walls,; water leaks; incomplete construction work, like the lack of some beam fillings on the two-storey houses; the lack of air vents and gutters and loose cornices.

Alrick Harris, who lives in Peacock Street, said because he is known for his work as a builder, many of his neighbours had come to ask for his advice or help with the challenges they face. His two-storey house is also affected by the shoddy work, Mr Harris said.

“There is a broken sewerage pipe behind my house and because of that, human waste pops up in my backyard. The cement beam fillings on my house are incomplete. Once the south-easter comes, the rain will go right through and wreck havoc. It could blow your roof off.

“There are also no weather boards at the bottom of the doors, so the water seeps in the house when it rains. I also noted that there are no lintels on the window frames of the two-storey houses. This is a major concern, because the top structure of the house might sag.

“The blocks the houses are built with, carry a lot of weight, and so does the roof.

“Lintels are not that expensive, and to not install them to save a few rand, is not worth risking people’s lives. I’m quite familiar with health and safety when it comes to construction.

“I’m not saying I’m better than anyone else, but I think even if people are getting houses for free, it must not be a case of you must just take it as it is. Good quality is necessary,” Mr Harris said.

According to the City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, Benedicta van Minnen, however, the construction company installed * -blocks, and not lintels, which, she said, complied with the National Home Builders Registration Council requirements.

Elize Daniels said she is grateful to have a home for her and her family, but the conditions at her house were poor. She shares the two-bedroomed house with her husband, two children and three grandchildren.

“Our pipes leak in the toilet and the sink. There is also a big gap between the door and the wall, and that open side allows for the cold wind to sweep through the house. Water also seeps in at both the front and back doors. We also have no gutter and the drainage system is poor. I remember when we attended meetings about this housing development, we were told that we would get complete houses that are painted. This is not what we expected, because the walls and floors are all raw inside the house. There are no air vents. The house is also too small for my family,” Ms Daniels said.

She also pointed out that the road level in Hummingbird Close, where she lives, is higher than the houses, so rain water ran towards the houses.

Millie Mathews, 73, said she had waited 30 years for her house, but now found the cornices were loose in one of her bedrooms, some windows did not close properly and she could not lay vinyl flooring sheet, because there were holes and chips in her floor that could tear it.

Gerard de Lange said the contractor had come to repair their sewerage system, which overflowed in the bath when they pulled the toilet chain, but left a pile of rubble and damaged the concrete outside their backdoor, and never came to fix it or remove the rubble.

Ms Van Minnen said from the date the residents had moved in, they had had a three-month maintenance period to report all their concerns to the contractor.

Commenting on some of the complaints, Ms Van Minnen said some of the incomplete beam filling was noted when an inspection of the houses had been done before the hand over, and would be completed by the contractor

She said cracks in the floor needed to be inspected and would be referred to the contractor.

Ms Van Minnen said no gutters should be provided, as that was part of the minimum housing specifications.

As for the lack of air vents, she said: “No air vents are specified and not recommended as per the minimum housing specifications for houses built with cement blocks, as this would result in dampness through the vents – houses with a cavity wall construction are suitable for the installation of vents.”

She urged the residents to report the higher level of the road to the contractor immediately “to remedy the situation as soon as possible in the three-month maintenance period”.

The residents should take all their concerns to the site office of the contractor, Mellon Housing Initiative (MHI), which is situated in Heideveld, or contact the site agent, Anwar at 082 600 1514 or Ashraf at 076 879 1099.