Low cost houses ‘falling apart’, say residents

Residents of low cost houses in Manenberg and Heideveldcomplained about defective construction work and have asked the Manenberg Action Group to take up their plight.

More than 200 residents of low cost houses in Manenberg and Heideveld have lodged complaints about defective construction work but say the City of Cape Town is not attending to their concerns.

The Manenberg Action Group is representing the residents, many of whom complain of cracked walls, poor sewerage systems, mould, loose roof tiles, no or ill-constructed disabled ramps, and faulty electrical work.

Janap Hendricks said the foundation of her house in Irvine Street in Manenberg, lifted, her kitchen wall was wobbly and the other walls were cracked. She fears the house will collapse on her.

Malusi Booi, mayoral committee member for human settlements, said the contractor had been alerted to the complaints, but Covid-19 had stalled efforts to attend to them.

Ms Hendricks said she had complained “since day one” about the condition of her house.

“My whole house is full of cracks. The rain seeps through the cracks. They came to fill it and then the whole foundation lifted. There is even a bees nest and vermin in my ceiling. I was told that my house is one of four faulty houses. There is also a foul smell under my bath since I moved in, which was in June last year. I suspect my house was built on top of a sewer system. The small electrical boxes come out with the plugs if I want to unplug anything. I am so scared. I fear the house will collapse on me.”

Faizel Stanley said the houses were not up to standard. He claimed some sub-contractors were not qualified to build houses.

“After 32 years of waiting, I received a house and it is falling apart. We don’t know if it will still be standing after a year. We need building inspectors to come out.

They messed up, and it seems they are cutting corners because more sand than cement is being used. We want these houses to be condemned and rebuilt. The City must be responsible for giving us alternative accommodation while it is being rebuilt.”

Anneline Jacobs, of Heideveld, said the houses where she lived were in a “horrible” condition.

“If you tap on the wall, then the house shakes. People are scared to complain, but it cannot continue like this.”

Faiza Lakay said she had had to get a social worker involved before a disabled ramp had been built for her and her house was also not wheelchair-friendly.

“If I am inside my house, I am basically stuck there until somebody helps me to get out. As far as I know, the subsidies for disabled people are higher, so what happened to the money that was made available?”

Yusuf Geldebloem, chairperson of the Manenberg Action Group, said it had built disabled ramps itself and sent more than 200 complaints to a City official in January, but none had been sorted out.

Mr Booi disagreed with that, saying the City had taken note of the residents’ concerns.

“The contractor has attended to the lists that were given to them by the beneficiaries. Each beneficiary has agreed to the snags and signed off on their snag lists where these were detected. The lists were for Manenberg. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic it has been difficult to attend to all of the snags. The contractor has assured us that they are still attending to snag lists that they could not attend to – due to beneficiaries not being available and also due to the Covid-19 regulations.”

A detailed snag list for Heideveld had been compiled and all latent defects rectified in 2018 already, he added.

All houses had to meet the minimum standards and were subject to inspection by the beneficiary, the City, the provincial government and the National Home Builders’ Registration Council (NHBRC), he said.

“This should ensure that work is completed to the highest standards. All Manenberg and Heideveld houses were signed off in terms of these requirements. The houses are also signed off by the NHBRC, which issued a final unit report,” Mr Booi said.

He denied any promises of geysers and fencing, as the national housing subsidy did not allow for it.

Residents had an opportunity after moving into their new homes to record defects in snag lists for the contractor to remedy, he said.

“This is the time during which issues such as settlement cracks (which are normal in all new buildings) are dealt with. Once this period – the latent defects period – has expired, then beneficiaries are responsible for maintenance of their own homes. It is important for beneficiaries to remember that they are the legal owners of their properties once it has been transferred into their names. As the legal owners, they then become fully responsible for all matters pertaining to the house, including its upkeep, maintenance and repairs.”