Police raiding.Picture Zanele Zulu.19/03/2014

Durban - Some buildings in and around Durban’s CBD are being illegally used as makeshift inner-city housing, with their owners violating numerous bylaws by not providing proper ventilation or fire escapes, and having “unorthodox” room sizes.

“Blocked storm-water and sewer pipes are the norm,” eThekwini Municipality spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, said after several buildings were raided last night.

Several people were arrested and building supervisors were handed fines.

But the city said shutting down derelict and problematic buildings might not be the best solution.

“If we close down these buildings many people will be on the streets.

“We need to name and shame the building owners. They are aware of what is going on.”

Arrests were made at Vara House, a three-storey building in St George’s Street, which was being used as a makeshift facility for street children.

Department of Home Affairs officials, who joined city officials, metro police and SAPS officers in the raids, found that the arrested people did not have proper documentation to be in South Africa.

The city’s water department disconnected an illegally connected standpipe.

Russel Machi, who said he ran an organisation for street kids, said this was not the first time the building had been raided.

“I am a target because we have people frequenting the building looking for shelter and places to study.”

During the week, 19 cars were towed from a makeshift car repair shop outside Vara House.

Police said it was operating illegally as there was no business licence.

The cars were checked to see if they were stolen or used for the purpose of committing crime.

Police swooped on three buildings in Victoria Street on Wednesday and fined the supervisors R1 000 each for not having licences to use the premises for accommodation.

One of the shops in the building was closed and the owner was charged for being in possession of suspected stolen property.

At one seven-storey building, each floor had a labyrinth of rooms divided by asbestos boards.

Each floor had 24 rooms with an average of three people living in a room.

The tenants, mostly women, were charged rentals of R1 000 to R1 600 a month.

Some toilets and showers had no doors, only pieces of Masonite board.

“The owners are violating many of the city’s bylaws,” Mofokeng said.

“The basic requirements for human habitation are flawed here.

“There is no proper ventilation, no fire escapes, inadequate lighting and unorthodox room sizes.”

At the corner of Maud Lane and Carlisle Street, a derelict building is home to about 100 people.

Store shelves, stacked to ceiling height, were used as makeshift bunk beds, with planks as mattresses.

Each room accommodated more than 20 people.

In the courtyard, several shipping containers, stacked one on top of the other, were used to store goods – and accommodate more people.

Many of the people interviewed during on Wednesday’s raid said they worked in shops around town, while others were students.

The raids were part of the city’s Clean My City programme launched recently by mayor James Nxumalo.

Mofokeng said that while there was a demand for inner-city housing, the city was using a multi-disciplinary approach to clean up buildings that were occupied illegally, or used for prostitution, crime and by drug addicts.

Police said whoonga addicts often smoked in the buildings around Albert Park.

Mofokeng said the city had also taken owners of problem buildings to court.

Daily News