Neglected housing project a ‘danger’

25.04.2016 Dilapidated buildings were resident were moved due to the conditions of the houses were not suitable for human being at New Germany, Durban. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

25.04.2016 Dilapidated buildings were resident were moved due to the conditions of the houses were not suitable for human being at New Germany, Durban. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

Published Apr 28, 2016


Durban - As the eThekwini Municipality battles a citywide housing backlog of more than 450 000 homes and mushrooming of informal settlements, a housing project of 25 flats in New Germany has ground to a halt, with the incomplete structures standing vacant for eight years.

Residents of New Germany say the Harmony Heights Housing project, which began in the early 2000s, has become a “virtual ghost town” with the city spending thousands of rands each month on security guards to protect it from invaders.

“With so many people crying for houses, this project is a scandal,” New Germany Community Police Forum chairperson, Tony da Canha, said.

“It’s just been left neglected. When they first started building this project all these units were double-storey.

“They discovered the structures were not sound (and) could pose a danger to people living in them. So they moved the people out and tore them down. But instead of fixing it up, they have just left it to rot,” he said.

The housing project is built in what was once a buffer strip between Clermont and New Germany. Nearly 9 000 other low-cost homes have been built in the former buffer strip.

According to residents of the surrounding homes near the Harmony Heights project, people were moved into some of the homes in 2006 but were told to move out two years later.

Most were moved into low-cost homes nearby.

A resident who did not want to be named said when they were moved into the Harmony Heights project the second storey had no railings along the stairs and had been a hazard.

There was no electricity in the units and people had to use a communal tap.

She said no reason was given to them as to why they had to leave.

“But we heard those places were not safe,” she said.

Hundreds of other people who had been on the housing waiting list apparently tried to invade the structures in 2008, but were evicted.

The city has since employed security guards on a 24-hour basis to protect the units.

When the Daily News drove through the project this week, four security guards were watching the unfinished homes.

There is no plumbing. The guards use a standpipe for water and a portable toilet.

Bruce Sutcliffe, the DA Whip on the Human Settlements and Infrastructure Committee, said the original contractor had been removed from the project because of shoddy work and a new one employed. He said during an inspection at the site last year, the first floor slabs of the project were being demolished.

“I have been employed and involved in construction for nearly 30 years.

“While I accept that the original contractor had left the site and a new one been employed, I was informed that once they had started on site it was found the first floor concrete slabs were completely under strength and needed to be demolished at an extra cost of about R1.2 million to the municipality,” said Sutcliffe.

“It appears the engineer did not check the slabs before the tender was processed. I then asked for the full tender and project detail on the project from the Housing Department, but as with other projects I have inspected they would not hand over any detail,” he said.

Sutcliffe said the entire project would have to be demolished and started from scratch.

“The problem currently with the city’s housing section is that on almost all projects there are serious quality, programme and cost overruns and other problems, as I have noted during oversight visits and as can be seen in the fact that in the last three years the department has not reached its budgets. This year they are seriously behind with only 980 houses completed in eight months,” he said.

eThekwini Municipality’s spokesperson, Thulani Mbatha, said there were two projects under construction at Harmony Heights.

“The first was done in 1997/8 by a company that went under liquidation prior to completion of the units in 1999. An application for rectification of the units was approved by the Department of Human Settlements totalling R8.2 million the balance of the project cost has been added by eThekwini Municipality as the current contract value is R10 261 038.00.

“Between 2009 and 2010, the community, through the ward councillor, requested that the Human Settlements Department assist in the completion of the units and the project.

“Before the new contractor could take over the construction, a professional team undertook structural integrity tests, which the structures failed. In the interest of safety, it was then decided that the old units needed to be demolished and rebuilt completely,” he said.

Mbatha said a new application that would cater for the demolition and rebuilding of all units had been submitted to the KwaZulu-Natal Human Settlements Department.

“The project will resume as soon as the funding is approved by the province. This approval is expected to undergo the administrative processes in the next few months.”

[email protected]

Daily News

Related Topics: