Maxwell Dicks, our full-time Handyman at Green Elephant Backpackers in Observatory, has been looking after our properties for the past 5 years. He ensures that our properties are kept in good condition and our guests are comfortable. Yet every night he would go home to his family of four living in a dilapidated backyard shack in Lentegeur, Mitchells Plain.
Max lives in a tiny structure barely large enough for him and his wife, let alone their children. When it rained, the roof leaked and the structure could not insulate them from the outside temperature, hot or cold. The structure had no running water and took electricity from the house it was attached to.
Max also had no tenure over the property and was constantly threatened with notice by the landlord who would gouge Max for electricity money far in excess of actual usage.
Max has been on the City Council Housing waiting list since 2001 – 19 years he has been waiting for a home.
I had for some time tried to explore alternative options and tried to navigate the various low-cost housing options, but came to naught.
In early August last year, Max informed me that he had been offered a nearby backyard space onto which he could build a new structure and was seeking a staff loan to finance the building there-of.
I had previously with all good intentions, assisted in the building of an informal structure, which turned out to be an expensive disaster as we didn’t have the knowhow, so I know how these projects can go so wrong and I was very nervous of embarking on a project which I wasn’t sure would yield the requisite result.
Green Elephant is a small business and had been going through a rough period after two years of drought induced low occupations and we simply could not afford the outlay.
As fate would have it, a few days after Max’s request, I found myself at Mensch’s Project Bayit launch presentation at Limmud Cape Town. Well, how good was that for timing. Project Bayit, a joint initiative between Mensch and Ikhayalami, and supported by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, were offering a practical solution. Ikhayalami would use their expertise to design and build a new structure (or upgrade an existing one) and Project Bayit would provide the loan financing. I couldn’t wait for the presentation to end to sign-up.
Within a week iKhaylami had met with the new landowner and Max and his wife Melissa and agreed on a floor plan and a draft lease agreement. Max and Melissa would own the structure and could move it if required should the lease not be renewed.
Ikhaylami then came up with a design and costing proposal for a 42m2 structure to accommodate the whole family in 3 seperate rooms plus a lounge/kitchen and toilet. This is a relatively large structure and hence the costs including additional cladding was way over what we could afford. We decided that the priority was for Max and his family to have a sound structure with a proper floor slab and partitioning for 3 rooms to start off with. We could always add additional cladding and extras later.
Ikhayalami proposed a payment plan over 18 months which was affordable to Max and Green Elephant who agreed to co-pay for the new structure.
Building began and was completed just in time for Max and his family to move into their new home in the new year.
I am so grateful to Mensch’s Project Bayit and Ikhayalami for this collaboration, we would never have been able to give Max and his family a practical solution to their housing needs in such a short and cost effective way without them.
By Howard Richman
Mensch Change-Maker of the Month (March 2020)
To read or download the full March issue PDF of the Chronicle, click here
To read the Editor’s column for March, click here
To read the most read article of the February issue, click here
Portal to the Jewish Community: to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites, click here
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