Government built homes in Kuyasa, Khayelitsha, where residents complain about mould, leaks and walls that were never plastered. Photo: Vincent Lali/GroundUp

Cape Town – Providing homes to people who cannot afford to buy their own is only the first part of the challenge for the South African state when it comes to fixing the housing crisis. Once houses are built, they need maintenance, especially if they have been built on the cheap. With massive unemployment, the residents of RDP houses can seldom afford the upkeep.

This is why many families in Kuyasa, Khayelitsha, are unhappy. Just under 4 000 families live in RDP houses here. But many of them have mould and cracks which allow the rain and cold in.

Lulama Mgudini and his family moved into their RDP house in 2007. “The house looked good when we moved in, but three months afterwards, it developed cracks and we saw mould on the walls,” he said. “It is hard to bear staying in the house in winter as our clothes and ceiling become damp in the mornings.”

Khungeka Cewu stays in an RDP house in which rooms are separated by ceiling boards. Her family wants to fix the cracks in their house, but they have no means to do so.

“The house has never been plastered from the start, and bricks look as if they will collapse on us. But we have no money to repair it,” she said. “In winter, water comes in … We are frightened of winter.”

Community leader Monwabisi Makoma said his RDP house becomes hard to live in when heavy winter rains pour down. “When it rains, water seeps through the unplastered bricks and runs down the wall,” he said.

To stop water from penetrating the wall, he covers it with paint. He said the wall and the ceiling become black and mouldy during and after heavy downpours.

“If I place my shoes under my bed for two or three days, they become covered in white mould,” he said. “After heavy rains, the house smells as if there is a rotting dead dog inside.”

Makoma wants the government to repair the house or rebuild it from scratch.

According to Ntomboxolo Makoba, spokesperson for the provincial MEC for Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela, Kuyasa was developed in 2001 by the City of Cape Town. The problems with the houses was raised with the Human Settlements department at a community meeting in December 2015. A subsequent “walkabout” confirmed that some houses had mould and cracks.

“The Minister pronounced that officials from his Department will visit the area and work with the leadership to investigate the cause and submit a report and confirm whether remedial work is required or not,” said Makoba.

The department together with community leaders is now verifying ownership of houses built by the state. Once this is done, a technical report will be compiled on the state of the houses.

MEC Madikizela said, “All the houses that were built before the establishment of National Home Builders Registration Council, which was in 2002, are rectified under an emergency housing program, provided the reason the house is falling apart is because of structural defects. But those houses that are looking bad because of neglect from the owner, we do not rectify them.”

* This article was originally published on GroundUp