City Challenged to Convert JHB Downtown Buildings into Low-cost Housing

Posted On Sunday, 15 October 2006 02:00 Published by
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ENTREPRENEURS have invested more than R500m in rehabilitating downtown buildings, but a new report has challenged the metropolitan council to convert further buildings into low-cost housing.

ENTREPRENEURS have invested more than R500m in rehabilitating downtown buildings, but a new report has challenged the metropolitan council to convert further buildings into low-cost housing.

The 2006 Trafalgar Inner City Report – dubbed “Princes and Paupers” – indicated there were more than 400 transitional housing units operated by non-government organisations in the inner city, but the bulk did not cater for the 20500 households earning less than R1250 per month. In the past three years 15 inner city buildings have been renovated in exchange for the council waiving around R250m debt, but the report challenged mayor Amos Masondo to pay investors to convert more derelict buildings into low-cost, mixed income housing with subsidised rentals.

The report highlighted how the Hillbrow-based Europa Hotel was “a beacon of hope” for reviving Johannesburg’s inner city. In the past year a R6m investment and a long-term management contract with Metropolitan Evangelical Services and Johannesburg Homeless Trust have converted the property into model for social housing. However, the report also reflected how the recent Johannesburg High Court decision that councils cannot evict slum residents without providing alternative accommodation was negatively affecting inner city investment. Currently 198143 people live in the inner city of which only 44% were employed.

Trafalgar Chairman Neville Schaefer said downtown South Africa reflected the growing demand for living and working within the same geographic space. Tenants were savvier and owners were reaping the rewards for property investments in areas previously marginalised by bank red-lining. “The levels of upkeep have improved as owners show pride in their investments, thus diminishing the decay too often associated with inner city living. Property remains a key investment holding and now that phenomenon is being reflected in the inner cities,” Schaefer said.

He said inner city rentals were touching R1800 for a one-bedroom flat against the R800 these investments commanded when Trafalgar produced the inaugural Inner City Report in 2001. Tenant profiles reflected that Johannesburg inner city dwellers were typically African men under 30 years of age and more like to be married than single. Half of them moved to the city in the past two years and almost 80% used public transport.

The report highlighted that the anticipated R28bn Gautrain would significantly impact on the property around the Johannesburg anchor station. New investment into 500000 sq mt – or between 5000 and 6000 units – of residential development as well as significant investment in schools, crèches and colleges and the opportunity for warehousing, light industrial sites and parking facilities could attract around R22,7bn to the inner city. Financial modelling conservatively placed private sector investment around the Johannesburg and Pretoria anchor stations at R1,1bn with the project boosting densities near the sites.

International experience suggested gross densities of 25 dwellings per hectare were required to attain acceptable passenger levels. Passengers using the service for retail shopping purposes generated 10 times more trips than passengers who required the public transport system between their home and work.

Nationally, inner cities have benefited significantly from government initiatives for regeneration with the private sector investing billions of rand into rehabilitating derelict buildings and providing low-cost housing. Mechanisms like City Improvement Districts had contributed towards rebuilding inner cities in the country’s major metropolitan areas with Cape Town already attracting around R11bn investment. The Durban CBD has become home to aspirant young black professionals and civil servants, as well as the poorer population operating within the informal sector.

Schaefer said essentially the Inner City Report provided a bird’s-eye view for the new rich and poor. What had emerged was the extent to which the growing demand for quality inner city accommodation was creating pockets of gentrification that were displacing the poor.  “While the demand brings with it long-awaited impetus for renewal, it also has the effect of moving the problems of accommodating the poor in decent homes,” he said.

Issued By:

Marshall Inc Communications
Kerry Osborne
031 201 9745
083 701 5592
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Publisher: Marshall Inc Communications
Source: Kerry Osborne

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