‘Do they expect us to live like pigs?’

Paul van Aarde in the lounge of his Dido Valley house.

The new houses in the City’s Dido Valley housing project are substandard, says one of the beneficiaries.

Paul van Aarde, 58, moved into his new house in the R170 million project for 600 beneficiaries on Thursday June 1 after his shack in Red Hill was demolished (“Delays dog Dido Valley housing,” Echo, May 4), but soon afterwards, he says he noticed the roof was leaking and large patches of black mould appeared on the ceilings and walls. He could also see his backyard through gaps in the wooden back door, he says.

Poor workmanship, he said, included loose light fittings, silicone peeling in the bathroom, a flimsy balustrade, and “dampness” that caused his children, aged 9 and 4, to cough violently.

“I’m buying medicine all the time, and they don’t stop coughing,” he said.

The house was an “empty shell” compared to his bigger and better equipped shack in Red Hill, he said.

“I have been told by a City official that if I want to be wise, I will be kicked out of my house. What law says I can be kicked out? Do they expect us to live like pigs?”

According to the City, the project is meant to provide basic but quality formal housing that does not include geysers, flooring, or kitchen units – standards set by national government.

When the Echo visited, on Thursday June 29, we found a bedroom ceiling had been replaced the day before and the back door a week earlier, but large patches of black mould were visible on the walls and on the ceiling above the staircase.

Mr Van Aarde said silicone had been used on the roof sheets to seal the leak.

“Silicone doesn’t seal a roof, you need to waterproof it,” he said.

The Echo found loose light fittings that could be pulled out of the wall, exposing wiring; gaps around plug covers; plaster visible through the paint on internal walls; and a balustrade, which appeared to have been made from recycled wood, that shifted when we pushed it.

Mr Van Aarde said a City official had told the beneficiaries that interior painting had been done as a “favour”.

John Graham, the CEO of the South African Home Inspection Training Academy (SAHITA) and founding member of the National Association of Building Inspectors of South Africa (NABISA), said the house did not appear to meet the country’s minimum building standards from the video and photos the Echo sent to him.

The staircase railing appeared to be poorly anchored and non-compliant with the South African National Standards (SANS) for structural design, public safety and stairways; the roofing insulation did not appear to satisfy SANS standards for energy usage in buildings; and the leaking roof appeared to have been poorly installed.

The roof, he said, should be the subject of a structural warranty and roof claim against the builder and the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) as all new homes must be enrolled with the council’s warranty scheme under the Housing Consumer Protection Act.

The black mould appeared to be the result of the leaking roof and could be “very dangerous” to occupants, especially those with allergies, he said.

Once the roof had been repaired or replaced, the mouldy ceiling should be ripped out and the walls scrubbed with a bleach solution and then repainted, he said.

The gap between the light switch cover and the wall was dangerous and illegal under the Occupational Health and Safety Act’s wiring regulations.

Since the Echo’s visit, the City has replaced Mr Van Aarde’s entire roof and the ceiling boards in all the upstairs rooms.

The City said provincial and City inspectors had checked all the housing units and a clerk of works was meant to do regular quality checks as construction progressed.

All the units complied with the Departmental Housing Standards 2018 and national subsidy allocation requirements, and their completion had been confirmed before sign-off by the inspectors, the City said.

“None of the other 32 completed houses have reported similar defects,” the City said, noting there was a three-month defects liability period after the houses had been handed over during which all “snags” had to be dealt with and signed off by the contractor after which the NHBRC would issue a final unit report to the City and the province.

The City said inspectors had rejected the original railing on Mr Van Aarde’s staircase and told the contractor to replace nails with stronger screws, and the bolt securing the balustrade was needed so furniture and other heavy items could be moved up and down the stairs. However, Mr Graham said that argument “makes no sense” because “the securing of the entire balustrade appears very flimsy” with the bolt secured at the bottom with “two small screws”.

He added: “I doubt very much the balustrade would safely withstand the load of a large adult falling against it.”

The City said roof insulation, loose light fittings and gaps between the light switch and the wall were referred to the inspectors to investigate and resolve with the contractor.

Paul van Aarde in front of his Dido Valley House.
The loose balustrade in Paul van Aarde’s house. The bolt can be seen at the bottom of the railing.
An electrical switch cover that is non-compliant according to the South African Home Inspection Training Academy (SAHITA).
The loose light fitting with exposed wires in Paul van Aarde’s house.
Black mould on a bedroom ceiling. The ceiling board has since been replaced.
One of the ceiling boards in Mr van Aarde’s house that was replaced and repainted.
One of the roof sheets from Mr Van Aarde’s house that was replaced on Saturday July 1.