Cheryl Ann Richards lives with her partner and brother in a one-bedroom dwelling in an informal settlement in Clare Estate. She has been on the city’s housing waiting list for the last 27 years. Picture: Se-Anne Rall
Cheryl Ann Richards lives with her partner and brother in a one-bedroom dwelling in an informal settlement in Clare Estate. She has been on the city’s housing waiting list for the last 27 years. Picture: Se-Anne Rall

SA’s housing crisis: Mothers lose hope after waiting decades for homes

By Se-Anne Rall Time of article published Mar 22, 2021

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Durban - Almost three decades ago, Cheryl Ann Richards stood in the queue alongside hundreds of others to apply for a home. Today, Richards lives in a one-bedroom dwelling with her partner and brother in an informal settlement in Clare Estate, having lost all hope of the government ever delivering on its promise.

Richards is just one of thousands of people on government waiting lists for homes.

In an interview with IOL, Richards said she and her two children were forced out of their home in Wentworth after her brother moved back to Durban.

Richards’s daughter, Marise, lives in the same settlement as her mother and pays R800 for a one-bedroom dwelling.

Cheryl Ann Richards has been waiting 27 years for a home. Picture: Se-Anne Rall

She said her mother went to what was formerly known as the Martin West building and applied to have her name added to the waiting list.

"I would run with my mother whenever people told us there was another opportunity to be given a house," she said.

The women said they have filled in countless forms supplied by councillors but have never received any positive feedback or feedback at all.

"I just want shelter for my family. If something happens to me, I want my children to have a roof over their heads," Richards said.

Marise said she knew of many people who have since received homes, some who have never applied for homes.

"People were given homes in Cornubia and other areas and when we went back to query, we were told they had done away with the waiting list," she said.

Cheryl Ann Richards’s forms from 27 years ago, when she first applied for a home. Picture: Se-Anne Rall

These were the council flats that Richard’s applied for. Picture: Se-Anne Rall

The women said it was disheartening to hear other people receiving homes when their application dates back to 1994, 27 years ago.

"I haven't even gone back to check. Each time, I get the same thing and then I am told there is no waiting list," Richards said.

Wentworth mother of two, Julia Dunn, said it's been 11 years since she applied for a home.

Dunn is currently renting a one-bedroom flat in Burgers Road where she lives with her son, daughter and granddaughter.

"I applied in 2010 and about four years ago, I added my name to another list when I heard people were putting their names down. I've lost all my paperwork due to constantly having to move house but I am told there is no record - at all - of my applications," she said.

Dunn said lockdown left her particularly demotivated as it opened her eyes to a new kind of world.

"I have a job but due to lockdown, I could not work. It was a no work, no pay policy so I wasn't earning a salary. But I could not qualify for food parcels as I work," Dunn said.

She is only a few years away from retirement and she said one of her biggest concerns is having a home for her family.

According to calculations, it will take the eThekwini Municipality a century to clear the housing backlog.

According to city documents, the eThekwini Municipality has a backlog of more than 440 000 houses to build. However, between 2016 and 2019, they managed to only build an average of 4 000 houses per annum.

DA KZN spokesperson on Human Settlements & Public Works, Martin Meyer, said he often receives queries from residents who have applied for homes years ago but are still waiting.

He said a large part of the problem was the fact that the housing list is not transparent and it is an impossibility for people to find out where they are on the housing list.

"So quite often, and quite understandably, people feel that others are jumping the housing queue through bribery and other corrupt means. This problem is going to get worse with the massive budget cuts in the Human Settlements budget meaning that far less houses are being built," Meyer said.

He said the first step to a solution is to modernise the system.

"Make the whole process transparent and make it possible for a person to see where they are on the housing list either by a quick visit to an office or the click of a button. The provincial government has been promising this for years but so far no movement in this has been seen," he said.

IOL

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