Pandemic delays renovations to home damaged by fire

Charles Bouah has been living in a container with his family since a fire broke out in their rental home in 2019. Their burned home is currently in the process of being renovated.

Two years after a fire damaged a Beacon Valley family’s rental home, renovations are finally being carried out due to a backlog in maintenance repairs brought about by Covid-19 and the lockdown.

Malusi Booi, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for human settlements said renovations were currently being done

The family’s rental home was affected by an electrical fault in 2019, causing fire damage inside. The City notified the family by letter that their house would be repaired.

However, said Mr Booi, turnaround times are “regrettably being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown backlogs”.

In an effort to reduce the backlog on maintenance repairs, the City and the National Housing Finance Corporation jointly embarked on a drive to attend these renovations. Repairs to public rental housing property started on April 6 and is to be completed by Monday May 31.

Since the fire, the Bouah family have been separated, with one half of the family living next to their fire-damaged house and the other in a green container in their driveway in front of their home.

Their son lived on the property in a wendy house, which he later sold to a couple who occupied it for only a few weeks. While they are still on the property, City officials had, on Monday April 26, asked them to leave.

Tenant Charles Bouah, 54, confirmed that City contractors had visited their home on Monday April 26 to take measurements and write up what needed to be done.

Mr Bouah said criminal elements had occupied the property. “They sell drugs and do as they please. It is very unpleasant to live in these (conditions). We are caught in the middle of a life of crime,” said Mr Bouah.

Beacon Valley Pastor Dean Ramjoomia said the people occupying the space posed an additional problem.

“The long delay really affects this family. The City has taken a long time to tend to this. Opportunistic people came and occupied the Bouahs’ space. If officials acted in time this could have been prevented and the family would have been assisted,” said Mr Ramjoomia.

“It’s not easy living in these conditions, it does become challenging for me and my family,” said Mr Bouah.

“My children had a challenging time with their studies as they would either sit up and sleep while the other (lies) down. They had to take turns. It’s also dangerous for us here. We do fear for our lives, we want to be rid of the elements and we want our house back.”

He said after the fire they had slept at his mother’s house, also in Beacon Valley, for a week. “Two weeks after the fire we were placed in the green container. We don’t have a toilet connected to it at the moment. Electricity and water are a problem for us,” he said.

The green container was provided by the City’s Public Housing Department of its Human Settlements Directorate.

The family would like for their home to be fixed as soon as possible. Of the 10 who shared the house, six were currently living in the container.

Mr Booi confirmed the City would assist the residents after the contractor had assessed the unit in order to establish what it would cost to rebuild.

“Depending on the cost, it will then be decided whether it will be feasible to rebuild or if we should demolish what is left of the unit and instead relocate the tenant to another dwelling,” said Mr Booi.

“The City’s Public Housing Department is aware of this complaint and is trying its best to finalise the process to assist the residents within the shortest possible time-frame,” said Mr Booi.