Bad smells, rubbish and stagnant water lead to the burnt home of Nomabali Maholwana. She lives in an old hostel in Langa's Zone 24.
Maholwana, who lives with 11 other family members, says she has been living in the hostel for more than 20 years, GroundUp reported.
The hostels have not been renovated in that time. The City of Cape Town owns them.
Mayco Member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi said that during apartheid, the hostels, including "The Zones", were built for black African men who were employed as labourers for various companies.
"During this period, it was an employment prerequisite for companies to provide hostel accommodation for their labourers."
Maholwana says she and her family can only use two of the three rooms because the other room is occupied by another family. One side of the house, which used to be a kitchen but which now only has a sink and a tap in a small corner, has black walls after a fire in 2011.
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Though rental charges for hostel bed spaces are R20 per month, Maholwana said they did not pay rent.
Maholwana's health makes her living conditions harder to endure.
"I have had heart problems since I was very young and have already had two operations. I am better now but who knows what can happen if I continue living like this."
Maholwana has applied for a house but is still on the waiting list.
Another resident, Chwayita Mbeleki, who does not live far from Maholwana, said she was living under the same dirty conditions and did not even have a toilet.
Just behind Maholwana's home, another hostel can be seen. Cardboard is used as windows and a huge pile of uncollected rubbish can be seen - not far away from the door. In the same yard, are two shacks.
Booi said a plan has been made to upgrade the flats and hostels in the Langa Zones and some will have to be demolished and built anew.
He said there are about 11 000 hostel beds in Gugulethu, Langa, Nyanga, Lwandle and Mfuleni and these need to be "transformed". The plan is based on a survey of the hostels in 2010.
The construction cost of one 40m hostel unit is roughly three times an RDP house according to Booi.