Municipal homes in Fairleigh fall into disrepair around residents

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Several municipal houses on David Street, Fairleigh, are in a state of total disrepair. This has resulted in residents living in a deplorable state and allegedly receiving little communication or support from the Newcastle Municipality.

One resident, Cameron Murugan, explains that residents along the street have been loyal to the Newcastle Municipality, renting semi-attached homes consisting of either two, four or five-room units.

However, due to the age of the houses and the environmental challenges, the conditions of the homes have deteriorated substantially.

Murgan states that in 2019, the devastating hailstorm that swept through Newcastle caused excessive damage to the asbestos roofing, leaving many of the residents’ homes in a critical state.

“To date, many homes ceilings are on the verge of collapsing due to water leakage and damage sustained,” explains Murugan.

While the issue has apparently been reported to the municipality on numerous occasions, he declares that the Newcastle Municipality has done virtually nothing to remedy the condition of the houses.

Moreover, Murugan points out that in March 2021, the municipality called the residents to sign the Title Deeds. Thereby forwarding ownership over to them.

However, he says that “None of the home owners have agreed to the terms, due to the poor condition of these homes.”

According to Murugan, his home was initially his grandfather’s, who moved into the house back in 1982. “When my grandfather passed away, I took the two-roomed house over and moved in.”

He claims that promises have been made to address the problems through the years. Yet to date, nothing has been done.

Another resident, Evelyn Geduld, explains that she moved into her home on David Street just over ten months ago. Further stating that her home has been plagued with massive leaks. 

This has resulted in her putting buckets all along the floor of her home when it rains to ensure her small house does not flood.

Jointly, another resident, Elmarie Smith, points out that she moved into her home back in the 1990s and still faces endless problems.

“I am 75-years-old, I live alone and have buckets full of water in my home because of the leaking roof and no one from the municipality has ever come to me to address the issue,” she says. Like other residents, she is also expected to pay her monthly bills to the government entity without fail.

Adding to this, Murugan says that there is a 62-year-old man who has had both his legs amputated and is forced to live in a leaking house. His safety has now become a cause of concern. The elderly man’s family has to push furniture in front of the home’s doors. This is because water damage has resulted in the doors no longer closing properly.

Furthermore, according to Murugan, severely leaking rooves are not the only issue residents along David Street face.

Further issues include:

  • Asbestos in the homes’ roofing affects numerous residents’ health.
  • Virtually no service and maintenance from the Newcastle Municipality, despite the government entity still owning the homes.
  • Contractors installed solar geysers, yet they are not functional and are falling apart.
  • Structural damage to the homes.

Contemplating the problems, Murugan clarifies a misconception that the Fairleigh residents living on David Street do not pay any utility bills. He and others claim this is not the case at all.

This incorrect understanding is adding to the frustration felt by residents, as many feel they are being pushed aside and not receiving the same level of service delivery as other suburbs.

Due to the residents being forced to live in sordid conditions, Murugan explains that the David Street residents wrote an official complaint to the Development Planning & Human Settlements office and the Newcastle Municipality.

Delivering the complaint in June 2021, residents state that they are still waiting for some form of feedback.

Seeking answers, the Newcastillian – Online News approached the Newcastle Municipality to get some clarity and direction on the subject.

Admitting that it is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of all properties still on its book, the government entity says that the last inspection was completed in May 2019. This was after the hailstorm swept through Fairleigh. “The Municipal Disaster Management Section conducted assessments of all affected areas.”

According to the Newcastle Municipality, after the assessments were completed, the Development Planning and Human Settlements Department prepared an application to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements

They requested a structural engineer’s appointment for further assessment and cost estimates to refurbish the affected housing units.

“Once the assessment has been finalised by engineers Newcastle Municipality will then submit an application for funding for all identified damages,” said the Communications Unit.

With residents stating that they have approached the government entity on various occasions, the local municipality was asked to elaborate on why there was little to no response? 

In addition, they were further asked how the Newcastle Municipality can assure people that it has the Fairleigh community’s best interests at heart?

In response, the Communications Unit stated, “The Newcastle Municipality requested the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements for funding, for the restoration of David Street houses. Site visits were conducted for physical inspection by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements and Municipal officials for the final packaging of application which is in the process to be approved by the MEC.”

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