‘Unfit to live in’

This picture shows the mess left by the Citys contractors in Christopher Adams bedroom.
Beneficiaries of this housing project started complaining only a month after moving in (“Housing joy short-lived,” Athlone News, July 6 2016) and proceeded to form the New Era Community Organisation (NECO) to address their concerns about their new homes (“Hazendal residents stand up to the challenges,” Athlone News, September 21 2016).

But it seems their woes are far from resolved.

The Athlone News was taken on a tour of the housing project last week and saw windows which were broken, doors which didn’t close properly, roof tiles which had blown off and holes in floors, among other things.

The developer of the housing project, which comprises 153 houses, is the Mellon Housing Initiative.

Christopher Adams, who moved into his house in the first week of December last year, said the floors started to crack a month later. “I had to leave home for three weeks so that the City could fix the floors. We moved to my sister’s place. They left such a mess and the walls are not even painted. Two weeks ago, they said they will bring me the paint and still haven’t,” said Mr Adams.

Mr Adams’ son suffers from asthma. Last week, his son had an asthma attack because there is not sufficient air coming into the house. The houses are all built without air vents.

“If you leave the house closed for the whole day, you suffocate when you come home. You have to open everything to get fresh air in the house. Last month, I had a leak under the sink as well. I told them (the City) I will do the painting myself but they have to reimburse me because they won’t do a proper job. There are now more cracks in the walls,” he said.

Mr Adams also said the layout of the house was not up to standard. “The toilet is built right into the kitchen. This to me is unhealthy,” he said.

Nicolette Coetzee, who moved into her house on September 2, 2016, said her walls were not plastered and batches of cement were lying on the staircase. She said there were gaps in doors, the water in the toilet started rising and there were more batches of cement lying by the bath.

“I went to councillor Rashid Adams and told him to look at my place. It is really sad for us as a community to live in dwellings like this. It’s the attitude of, ‘Here’s a place for you; you want it, so make it liveable.’ There are no air vents, and we can’t open the windows because they will blow out. Our elderly people cannot afford to fix up their properties because they live off a grant. The company who built these houses and messed it up has to fix it,” she said.

Ms Coetzee asked her friend, Gaenor Munnik, who has building expertise, to inspect the houses. Ms Munnik approached Mr Adams who told her to leave it to him to sort out.

“Up till now the councillor has done nothing to help us. We have been threatened by the building company that if we don’t sign off on our houses, we will lose them. On Friday, the quantity surveyor came in and said this is not liveable.

“He gave a huge list for me to hand to the building company. I told him to fix my defaults before I sign off my house,” said Ms Coetzee.

Ms Munnik said she had gone around to the houses of people who had asked her to inspect them. She said some staircases were moving away from the walls and had too few steps.

“I spoke to Rashid who said he will take over but nothing happened to date. When you move into the house, there will be moving and shaking but not to the extent that it is moving now. Some people have signed their houses off and are still unhappy because they feel that there is nothing they can do.

“This is very unfair. We need to know what is going to be done. These people’s houses are going to fall apart.

“The guys who do the fixing are left on site and not supervised, and they are so young they have no clue what to do,” she said.

Ms Munnik said there is no foundation, and the pipes in the ground can be seen if you move the sand away with your foot.

George Daniels, chairman of NECO, said his roof had given problems since he moved in. “The tiles blew off the roof. To me this is just poor workmanship and really is not at acceptable. My floor is even breaking up again – it started cracking a month after I moved in. The trapdoor fell out and I had to put silicone in there to fix it.”

Mellon Housing Initiative declined to comment and referred the Athlone News to the City of Cape Town.

Suzette Little, acting mayoral committee member for area central, said the City knew about the issues the residents had raised.

She said the building contract made the contractor responsible for any maintenance issues arising within the first three months.

“Most of the units are now coming out of their three-month maintenance period, after which the maintenance and repairs will become the responsibility of the homeowner.

“The contractor is currently doing all repairs on the snag lists to ensure that all units are complete before the three-month maintenance period expires,” said Ms Little.

She also said that while residents had signed off their handover certificates, the contractor had engaged with them to sign off on their maintenance items.

“A cut-off date will be confirmed with the contractor as soon as the extent of the snags and repairs is clearly defined,” she said.

When the Athlone News visited the site, we noticed that the houses on the one side of the project were built on a downward slope. Residents complained that come winter, their houses would flood because there was no drainage system.

In response, Ms Little said the roads and services for the project were built according to an approved design that complied with the City’s engineering standards.

“Earthworks are designed and the site is shaped to ensure that stormwater is attenuated in ponds or directed into the underground stormwater system. Houses are often built on downward slopes and no flood risk exists if stormwater is managed properly,” she added.