South Africa: City of Cape Town Rental Flats in Poor Condition

Mayco member says the City has to manage 45,000 units and prioritises repairing them based on safety

Crumbling balconies, unstable steps, mouldy walls and leaking roofs, are some of the issues that tenants are experiencing in their Avonwood rental flats. They claim that the flats are not being maintained by the City of Cape Town.

Situated in Elsies River, the four-storey buildings which were built in 1976, are part of a number of community rental units (CRU) that the City manages.

We were shown some of the balconies of the flats which were riddled with cracks underneath. Some of the screws holding the steps were missing, and some windows were broken.

Carl Houtsamer is a tenant and community activist. He has lived his entire life on the flats. He stays in a two-room flat with 11 other family members.

Though he does not have issues in his flat, Houtsamer said many tenants have been complaining about the state of their apartments and the buildings in general. “People complain about broken doors, broken windows, leaking geysers, and unstable steps. It is a lot. These problems are reported, mainly at the Elsies River Civic Centre. But most of the time when we report, we do not receive reference numbers to follow up.”

Katie Jacobs has been living on the fourth floor of her Grabouw Hof flat for more than 30 years. Her flat has old leaking pipes.

“I have been going up and down to the civic centre for the past three years to report the issue, but I am still sitting with the same problem. Each time I go and report, I am told that a reference number will be sent to me, but nothing ever comes,” said Jacobs.

She showed GroundUp a broken electricity metre box in her kitchen which has a little container on top of it. “My roof is leaking. So I put that container there so that the water does not leak onto the metre box. When I reported it, they came and shut the metre box down and gave me a new box but they never fixed the leak,” she explained.

Another tenant, Beverly Jacobs – no relation to Katie – has the same problem of a roof leaking on top of her electric switchboard. To protect the switchboard, she has put a towel on top of it.

Her flat has a broken window held together by tape. There is mold on her walls and a leaking geyser.

Houtsamer said that hundreds of people are living in the flats. Some people are now also living in Wendy houses behind the flats because of lack of space and affordable housing opportunities in the area. One resident had taken over a structure built for rubbish and turned it into a living space.

Carl Pophaim, Mayco Member for Human Settlements, said the City was aware of the required work at Avonwood.

“Due to the large volumes of rental stock, some 45,000 units, the City prioritises repairs based on service requests received, safety and if they are of an emergency nature.”

“The budget allocation figures for Avonwood are not available at this time; however, the City will communicate on the planned work and budget allocation in due course,” said Pophaim.

“Our teams are committed to addressing the maintenance work and upgrades at Avonwood,” he said.

Pophaim said once reported, residents should follow up on their maintenance requests so that city teams could be deployed.

Pophaim said the average rental fees were between R670 and R1,300 per month. He encouraged struggling residents to approach the City to see if they qualified for the city’s indigent and pensioner support on offer.