RDP homes’ cracks start to show

Hyde Park resident Wardah Samuels says her electricity box also gets wet.

Hyde Park residents in Tafelsig have lashed out at the City of Cape Town for the poor condition of their Reconstruction and Development (RDP) houses, but the City has hit back, saying that residents, as the owners of their properties, were responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the units.

The houses were built between 2008 and 2010, and many of the residents say they have had to endure cold, wet conditions inside their homes for as many as eight years.

Now they are afraid their safety may be at risk because of the increasing cracks in the structure of their homes.

Hyde Park resident Wardah Samuels who lives in Honolulu Street and is wheelchair-bound, complained that rain leaked into her home through cracks in the walls, and added that she was concerned that the lack of back doors in the RDP houses posed a safety hazard.

“We have 10 people living in the house. The children are always getting sick because of the cold. Then, we have no back doors in our homes, this is a safety hazard. What if a fire occurs, then where do we go?

“Thirdly, I have to struggle to get inside my own home, because there is no ramp. I have informed my former ward councillor Maria Weavers and other politicians who have visited our area about our problems. But, no help, we have to live in this pathetic conditions,” she said.

Ms Samuels added that her electricity board had been damaged by the rain and that ”this is a health risk for my family and I”.

Hyde Park resident Lydia Theron who lives in Litchy Street said for eight years she has had to deal with cracked walls, a leaking ceiling, and windows. “Winter time is the worst time to live in these houses. It is wet and cold in every room, including the kitchen. The water comes through cracks from outside and obviously from the roof because the ceilings were not done properly.

“Yes, we received these houses for free, but they are seriously unsafe to live in. All we are asking is that the City assist us,” she said.

Sheila Charter from Honolulu Street , who has also lived in the area for eight years, said: “Everyone is experiencing the same problem. We have brought up the issue, but we are being ignored. We are humans and we should be treated like humans not animals,” said Ms Charter.

According to the City there are 597 houses in the Hyde Park development.

Benedicta van Minnen, the mayoral committee member for human settlements, said after the houses were handed over to beneficiaries, there was a three-month maintenance period during which all outstanding matters were handled. She said beneficiaries would have been required to submit their complaints during this period to the local housing office so that repairs could be effected.

“Thereafter, as with privately owned properties, the beneficiaries as the new owners are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their houses.

“The houses at Hyde Park were constructed between 2008 and 2010, (and) the Breaking New Ground subsidy at the time made no allowance for back doors. There is one house type that only has one door as the design cannot cater for two doors. Furthermore, the installation of only one door is not a fire hazard as per building regulations,” she said.

Making specific reference to Ms Samuels’ home, Ms Van Minnen said it had been replastered with an additional layer of plaster after she reported dampness on the wall. Since then, she said, the City had not received further complaints regarding this matter.

Ms Samuels confirmed that the City had indeed assisted, but said the problem remained.

Ms Theron said she was disappointed that the City would not be assisting residents whose homes were “falling apart”.

“We have heard that the City will be fixing Heinz Park, but why not our homes? Must something happen to us before the City takes action? It is not only our RDP homes that are falling apart. There are Eastville Heights and Freedom Park. Who are they employing to build our houses? How are we to live in these homes?”

In a media release dated Sunday August 21, the City of Cape Town said they were embarking on the next phase of their ceiling retrofit project which aimed to fix state-subsidised houses that had been built without ceilings.

According to the City to date, some 4 500 ceilings had been installed across the metro at a cost of approximately R83 million. This included the fixing of roof leaks and the installation of safer ceiling lighting.

Ms Van Minnen said the City was starting with public participation for the next phase of the project and had earmarked a further R60 million in areas across the metro.

“It is hoped that we can continue to alleviate some of the discomfort that the beneficiaries of old state-subsidised houses – commonly referred to as RDP houses – have had to endure over the years. Our contractors and staff have performed exceptionally well and have mostly been markedly ahead of schedule.

“Having to live without a ceiling has caused much discomfort for residents who have been affected by the poor thermal performance of the homes, as well as condensation which gives rise to damp conditions and inferior internal air quality,” she said.

Ms Van Minnen said between 1994 and 2005, most state-subsidised housing units were constructed without insulated ceilings and weatherproofing because the national government subsidy did not make provision for it.

“After 2005, the housing subsidy was increased to provide ceilings, weatherproofing and partitioned bedrooms. In Cape Town alone, it is estimated that there are approximately 40 000 state-subsidised homes that do not have ceilings,” she said.

In Mitchell’s Plain, Heinz Park has been selected, and is one of 12 areas in Cape Town to benefit from the retrofitting. In Heinz Park 1 142 units have been identified for the ceiling retrofit project.

Ms Van Minnen said the public participation process for the Heinz Park project would start on Thursday September 8.

She added that planning for the next phase of roll-outs would take place in 2017 when this current pilot was completed.