Building work headache

Hermanus Cornelius said his water meter leaked on the day it was installed.

Elderly residents of Communicare’s Musgrave Park in Diep River say building work there is causing them stress, and they fear the social-housing non-profit company is using new charges and unpleasant changes to squeeze them out and make way for tenants who will pay
more.

Delene Dreyer claimed elderly residents at Musgrave Park were suffering stress from the inconveniences caused by the building work on 130 new flats, which started in October last
year.

The residents are also upset about new water meters installed in January because they now have to pay separately for water, whereas it was included in their rent before. Many could not afford the water charges on their pensions, claimed Ms Dreyer.

“Previously, the water was included in the rent of R2 400 but now we have to adjust our budgets to include the water monthly. It’s hard because the South African Social Agency (SASSA) money is only R1 780, and we do not want to bother our children, they have their own responsibilities. It’s becoming very stressful to the elderly. Three people died in one week just after those water meters were installed.”

Communicare CEO Anthea Houston said they had sent letters to their tenants last year about the need for the meters because of the City’s new water tariffs and that they had nothing to do with the new units being built.

Ms Dreyer said some residents had complained of leaks since the meters were installed and that they had not been reimbursed for their lost water.

Hermanus Cornelius said the pipe to his meter had not been taped properly, causing a leak. It had been repaired but had
leaked again and he and wife
had not been reimbursed, he
said.

Rose Westvig, 77 said she had lost more than 600 litres of water from an apparent burst pipe in her toilet system.

“I did not get that 600 litres back even though I complained so many times. I flushed the toilet, and it just continued to run endlessly that day. It was very hard for me and my health, I’m on a pacemaker, I don’t need this kind of stress.”

Ms Houston said data from a water meter could gauge water loss from a leak and tenants would be reimbursed.

Residents also said street lights had been on the blink for months. Sometimes they were on during the day and off at night, said Ms Westvig, and people returning from choir practice at night were tripping
and getting hurt because they couldn’t see the paths home in the dark.

And the parking lot had been moved further away from residents’ homes, meaning elderly people with disabilities had to struggle over longer distances.

Ms Houston said there had been intermittent problems with the lights. “We have tried various solutions. Our contractor is currently installing a bigger breaker to take the load to see if this will remedy the problem. We are actively working on fixing the problem and there is certainly no negligence from Communicare or our suppliers.” she said.

Ms Dreyer, along with other residents, said she suspected Communicare wanted to get rid of the senior citizens so it could more money.There’s just been too much change with these new buildings. First they broke down our hall for these new flats, then they took away the fruit-and-veg shop, then they took away the bus. All the things that the elderly used to enjoy, they took them away,” said Ms Dreyer.

“Many older people thought that this would be where they would settle, their resting place.”

But Communicare said Musgrave Park had never been an old-age home.

“Our only retirement villages were life rights villages and do not include Musgrave Park. All our facilities are rental facilities for independent living.

“Since many seniors want to live independently, in some complexes we reserve units to rent to senior citizens. For example, in Musgrave Park we reserve 30% of the units for seniors. In the past, we even allocated a higher percentage, which may have created an impression that Musgrave Park was a retirement village,” said Ms Houston.

“Each year we provide some concessions on rentals for tenants who are solely reliant on the Sassa old age grant. We will soon announce our annual rental concession rebate for these tenants which will, no doubt, provide some relief to their financial situation.”

Tenants should report complaints toll free to 0800 266 737.