Disabled and elderly’s plea for lower floor flats

Anthea Jaftha struggles to get to and from her home on the fourth floor.

Ottery residents feel like they are trapped in their own homes.

Disabled and elderly tenants who live in City-owned housing rental units have pleaded with the City of Cape Town to assist them by moving them from third and fourth floor apartments to ground floor flats but said their requests have been ignored.

Anthea Jaftha who lives on the fourth floor of the “Marble Flats” in Ottery requested a transfer to a lower floor in 2017 when the toes on her right foot were amputated because of diabetes.

Last year June her right leg was amputated below the knee, making it even harder for her to leave her home.

Ms Jaftha has missed several hospital visits and other important appointments because she had no one to assist her to get up and down the stairs.

On days when she does leave the house, she has to ask the assistance of four men to carry her up and down the stairs.

“I’vemissedmyhospital appointments because I cannot go up the stairs. Going down is a bit easier because I sit and slide down but coming up is too difficult for me and my left leg is not strong enough to hold me up. When it rains I am soaked because I have to slowly move down step by step on my backside,” said Ms Jaftha.

“I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I cannot go anywhere without help. I have to depend on my husband and at least three other people to carry me up the stairs. I have also asked the City if we can swop places with other tenants to make life a bit easier for me but the City has not come back to us with an answer. I cannot continue like this because life has become extremely difficult. Every day is a struggle,” she said.

Her husband Cornelius Jaftha, who is also a community worker, said he is concerned for his wife’s well-being because she has fallen from the stairs before.

“It is not easy seeing her like this – from being someone who did so much to not being able to do much.

“I have made requests to the City and begged for somewhere else to live that would be a bit easier for my wife. I’ve also mentioned that it’s a safety risk having her on the top floor because if a fire were to break out then she would be in grave danger because there would be no way I could get her down these stairs. It seems like no one is paying attention to our requests. We do not want something to happen before the City listens to our pleas,” said Mr Jaftha.

Community worker Melanie Arendse accused the hous-
ing office of preferential treatment and favouritism because of the delay in allocating the elderly and disabled to lower floors.

“Young and able-bodied people are in the ground floor apartments, gang and drug houses are located on the ground floor apartments but seniors and disabled people are not able to leave their houses. There are gang and drug houses on ground floors but those most in need like the blind or disabled are not helped.

“People of Ottery are under the impression that there is favouritism because people are moving out of ground floor flats but then their family members move in, whereas these units could have been given to people who actually need it,” said Ms Arendse.

Another resident who also lives on the fourth floor, Penelope Jones, is legally blind and has documents to prove it, but is still waiting on the City to move her to a lower floor.

She was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a disorder which causes a breakdown and loss of cells in the retina, making her vision impaired and technically blind.

“I cannot see properly and need help getting around so I have requested to be moved to a lower floor years ago. I am scared that something will happen to me. I can’t do anything and I always need someone to assist me. It affects every part of my life and we need the City to help us and assist us with our living conditions because this is not a good way of living, ”said Ms Jones.

Malusi Booi, the City’s Mayco member for human settlements, said beneficiaries of housing projects were strictly allocated according to the City’s allocation policy and in order of the date of registration on the housing database but said residents are allowed to request different rental accommodation.

“A tenant can approach their local housing office to request a transfer to a different unit. They will need to complete an application form for transfer, including the supporting medical documentation required
for their request to be considered. Tenants are also encouraged to ensure that they are in good standing as per the conditions of the lease,” said Mr
Booi.

He said the allocation policy did not allow tenants to swop, however, it did allow the City to right-size tenants, who have permanent disabilities, to more suitable units, when they become available. “Consideration for right-sizing is also given to senior citizens who cannot make use of the stairs due to their age and ailments. Due process will be followed to ensure that the allocation of housing opportunities are done fairly and in accordance with the housing data-
base.”

Responding to allegations that there was favouritism at the Ottery housing office, Mr Booi said the City viewed such allegations in a serious light.

“We encourage tenants or members of the public who have information to submit their evidence to substantiate these claims so that these allegations can be investigated.

“The officials working at the housing office and a ward councillor have no authority to approve a right-sizing application. A report, comprising the transfer application and supporting documents as a motivation for the request is submitted to the management of the City’s public housing department for their deliberation and a decision.”

He added that Ms Jones and Jaftha’s applications for trans-
fer to lower floor units had
been approved for priority and they would be assisted as and when rental units became available.