Durban’s urban decay worsening

2014-04-07 00:00

BEREA is under siege, with derelict buildings, the flouting of building regulations and general urban decay.

And according to a private housing inspectorate, the decay is the result of poor bylaw enforcement.

The Save Our Berea Campaign, a non-profit organisation campaigning against crime and grime in Durban, maintains the problem is “enormous”, while a local ward councillor has called for a shift in how the municipality enforces and prosecutes infringements.

Private home inspector John Graham said developers and private homeowners are taking “shortcuts everywhere”.

“There is a general decline in the experience and supervision of housing inspectors throughout the country. Clients ask for private inspectors because they do not trust [local government]. There is a lack of effective policing by the National Homebuilders Registration Council of South Africa (NHBRC),” said Graham.

He said houses are being sold privately with fake compliance certificates, and that the buyers have little recourse except through the courts.

Save Our Berea’s Cheryl Johnson said it was not acceptable for citizens to have to police buildings and check for compliance.

“We set up Save Our Berea originally because of the flouting of building regulations. There are buildings throughout the Berea that are illegal and we are having to fight the council to rectify these issues, but we will not rest until we get what we want,” said Johnson.

She said residents were fed up with the council not responding, but had nevertheless made “significant progress”.

“We have made a point of not politicising this organisation. We have had successes and will continue to push to save our neighbourhoods and property values from dereliction,” said Johnson.

Musgrave DA ward councillor Jethro Lefevre said the planning and land use management department at the eThekwini Municipality was under enormous pressure, with limited capacity to manage buildings in the city.

“They are understaffed. What we are finding is that developers are having to wait well over a year for their plans to be approved. This leaves them in a tough position as they need to turn the purchased land into a revenue-generating project. The longer it stands, the more it costs them. This is partially the reason why buildings go up without permission. The other reason is that developers realise they can build without authority as the municipal enforcement is weak and overwhelmed, and not prepared for or can [ill] afford a lengthy civil court battle,” said Lefevre.

Weekend Witness reported on Saturday that it was found that there were at least 117 buildings in Musgrave with violations of building regulations. It was also found that the city has realised that non-compliance with ordinances directly affected the its image and revenue.

“Without proper land use management, our suburbs will continue to get congested and residents affected will get agitated. This needs to be avoided,” said Lefevre.

The city’s town planning department had not responded to queries by the time of going to press.

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