Building cramps residents’ style

Across Summer Greens, there are a handful of houses being renovated and residents are worried that this will cause an influx of people, causing a strain on basic services.

Summer Greens residents are ignoring building by-laws to turn their homes into cramped boarding houses and the City is doing nothing to stop them, says a local civic group.

Summer Greens Residents’ Association chairman Gary Jacobs says many in the neighbourhood add on to their properties without notifying their neighbours who, he believes, should be consulted.

“All this building happening here causes an influx of people into the area. You find one house having four or five families living on the same property.

“This puts a massive strain on the sewage system, the traffic and it’s also a safety concern. Imagine having new neighbours every other month and not knowing who actually lives next door to you. This is very worrying, and the City of Cape Town should put a stop to this,” Mr Jacobs said.

Packing more people into cramped living conditions was also unsafe, he said.

“If you have 10 people living in one house at any given time, what happens when there’s a fire or another kind of emergency?”

Candice April has lived in Summer Greens for 20 years and says she has seen the neighbourhood deteriorate into a “dump” because of homeowners trying to make a quick buck.

“This practice is becoming very popular nowadays. People tell the City that they are extending their homes to have more family members live there. But the truth is that they are running a business. I wonder if they have business permits for this. It’s very selfish.”

She accused the City of approving plans without following due process because it was “too lazy to do things by the book”.

There are similar complaints in nearby Phoenix, where Thulani Notshe says the neighbourhood has become overcrowded and unbearable to live in.

“It seems like everyone is jumping on this trend of building on their houses and renting out up to eight rooms per house. Where is the City in all of this? They can’t say that they are not aware because it should register in their systems that at a particular house, X amount of water, etc is being consumed,” Mr Notshe said.

Phoenix Ratepayers’ Association member Ursula Marshall says they have tried for a long time to alert the City to people building onto their properties and running boarding houses.

“Of course, we get ignored by the City, and this is not anything new to us. Houses in Phoenix have sewage systems that are meant for about five people per house. Now with all these extensions to homes and buildings, our sewage systems are under pressure. Every other week, we have pipe bursts while other areas surrounding us are living great. We need the City to care for places like ours,” she said.

But mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Marian Nieuwoudt says if building plans meet zoning and development regulations, the homeowner or the City don’t need to notify neighbouring property owners.

Building plans are checked and approved by qualified officials in line with the National Building Regulations and Standards Act, she says.

“The safety aspects of a building are assessed against the provisions of the national building regulations. During the assessment process, building plans are circulated to the relevant departments, such as fire, to ensure that approved buildings meet the relevant safety and emergency standards. Upon completion of the buildings, the occupation certificate must be applied for to certify that buildings can be safely used.”

According to Ms Nieuwoudt, all buildings need an approved plan, showing they comply with land-use rights and national building regulations. When a proposed building doesn’t sync with zoning, the developer must submit a land-use application, which allows for public consultation.