New owners accuse provincial government of shoddy development

| Johnnie Isaac
Grant Sambokwe in his new home which he says has serious problems. Photo by David Harrison.

Dream homes have become nightmares for several residents of a government-housing development known as Fountainhead. Situated in Blue Downs the development is a joint partnership of the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements and Motlekar Cape.

The provincial department has confirmed its role as the seller and says it has done so to keep the cost below R300,000. It has sold 42 housing units to qualified buyers, most of whom are first time home-buyers. Prices start from just under R299,000. Government subsidies of up to R84,000 were provided.

Most occupants bought their homes while they were still under construction. But their dreams turned sour after moving in. They started dealing with problems they never expected from new houses.

Grant Sambokwe is one of the first nine occupants who moved in after construction. He lives with his wife Ayanda and their three children. Their house has patches of masking tape on the back door. Grant says “We had to [use] masking tape to prevent water from coming in when it’s raining.”

He said the door-frame has been changed a number of times “but that hasn’t prevented water from coming through when it’s raining.” Sambokwe is visually impaired and said he missed some details of his contract. He claims that the sales agent never told him about the exit clause if an occupant is not satisfied after the first five days of lodging.

“We wanted to move out from the very first day of moving in and the sales agent was aware of that but never mentioned the exit clause,” said an irritable Sambokwe. He accused Barbara Beswick, the sales agent, of misleading them into believing they could sell their house for much more than they bought it. Sambokwe says he cannot find a buyer. Beswick says they could find a buyer if they dropped the price to what they paid for the house plus their extra expenditure.

Another source of irritation for Sambokwe is the noise caused by rats racing and chewing nonstop above the ceiling-board.

Some of the new owners are accusing the developers of inflating the price to push up their profits. They believe that their houses should have cost far less. They also accused the provincial human settlements department of colluding with developers and poor oversight over the project.

The new owners claim that their contracts had vague clauses. They were expecting the complex to be secured with razor wire or electric fencing. They also thought they were getting a play area for children. However, the developers say those extra security measures are a responsibility of the residents.

The buyers also expected tiled roofs but instead found zinc roofing, which rusts easily and is prone to leaks. They expected the inside walls to be plastered but found that the builders merely painted on top of the bricks. These buyer expectations were however apparently created through verbal commitments. The provincial department has responded that they cannot comment on verbal promises.

The residents also accuse the developers of using cheap bricks, plastic toilet seats and doing shoddy work on the walls and floors which are not level. Some of the houses already have cracks. Residents are also not happy that there is one main drain in the complex for water drainage.


Fountainhead development in Blue Downs. Photo by David Harrison.

Many residents are still paying occupational rent, after more than seven months. Only the first nine occupants have received their title deeds. The developers say the delay is because of a broken scanner at the deeds office since late last year and that it is out of their control. The home owners are frustrated by this and view it as a ploy by the developers to continue profiting through their pain. The money, they say, should rather be going towards their housing bonds.

Some buyers say they saw Pam Golding banners when they applied to buy. They believe that the developers used this as a strategy to mislead them. Moreover, they claim the initial price during the application process was R295 000 but went up by R4,000 by the time of approval. However, the developers deny this. They say Pam Golding was their partner but pulled out. Interestingly, the Fountainhead development is advertised on the Pam Golding website. And the price of R295,000 was referring to a second phase of development, currently ongoing.

Residents are exploring further options to raise their concerns.

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TOPICS:  Housing

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Write a letter in response to this article

Letters

Dear Editor

I'm one of the owners & would like to say that all allegations are true. My house has had problems,one of the problems I have is an electrical fault because every time we have load shedding one of my breakers from the main electrical board doesn't want to go up.

I contacted the agent and she sent out the electrician. He came and sorted out the problem as I believed but after another loadshedding the problem was still there. I was then certain that it was an electrical fault because I thought he had fixed the problem.

So today I called the lawyers who did the transfer of the property to enquire about the electrical certificate of the house because how can that problem be there but an electrical certificate was issued.

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