Annual Report 1999

Reap What You Sow

“The return of people to the city is the key to urban regeneration. Thus JHC and its fellow social landlords take the Centre Stage.”

It is with great pleasure that we, who initiated JHC some four years ago, watch the slow, but ever increasing pace of regeneration in Johannesburg 's inner city. The vision provided by the Council's Egoli 2002 plan is being followed by tough-minded action to deal with the fiscal crises, service delivery and regulation of taxi's and hawkers. Below our offices the unsightly Van der Bijl bus terminus has been reborn as Gandhi Square through a partnership between the council and local business. The new square is now a pleasant piazza, full of promise as a place of tress and sidewalk cafes. Perhaps most significant is the recent purchase of the Carlton Centre by Transnet and the completion of the new Absa Head Office just east of Carlton. Both these developments will bring another 7000 people into the city each day.

The return of people to the city is the key to the success of all these developments. Without people to fill the offices, eat at the restaurants, shop, walk the streets, and above all, live downtown, the inner city can never be reclaimed. Thus JHC and its fellow social landlords take centre stage in this process. Should they not deliver homes in the city; the regeneration process will be short circuited, stopping at 7p.m when the last bus leaves for the suburbs or townships.

Many were sceptical when we conceived of a social housing association some five years ago. The prevailing policy preferences were for home ownership in garden suburbs, a right denied to the majority of South Africans for so many years. Hillbrow and Joubert Park were seen as urban jungles where no one paid rent and anarchy ruled. The rush out of the city was in full flight, as business fled the process of urban change unlocked by our new democracy. In this scenario, how does one explain JHC; now four years old; home to 2500 low income South Africans; a vacancy rate of less than 1% in its 506 residences; and an arrears rate averaging less than 5%?

Part of the answer lies in seeing past the aberrant circumstances of apartheid and immediate post apartheid South Africa . Internationally all urban centres have a demand for rental accommodation from those whom ownership is not a first choice. Both the demand for our homes and our market surveys place South African cities within the norms of international experience for urban living.

A second part of the answer lies in the location of our buildings. From day one, JHC has attempted to link residential development to the process of inner city regeneration. The Jeppe Oval is located in almost text book fashion close to all urban services, and the local authority and Intersite are currently working on a major economic redevelopment of the Jeppe Station Precinct. The same linkages to social services and urban economy are found in Carr Gardens in Fordsburg and the Landrost Hotel in Joubert Park . I am indeed pleased with the strategic foresight shown by management and the board in joining the twin processes of residential development and urban regeneration.

Finally our ability to succeed in the inner city lies in the commitment to service excellence which I noted in my last year's report. The new generation of poor inner city dwellers are as discerning as their predecessors. Well maintained, clean, safe and secure buildings will attract tenants willing to put time, effort and money into their accommodation. However, to find the right mix of fair and firm, of balance between rights and responsibilities, and of a social way of living, is not always easy. This is particularly so as we still deal with the sense of entitlement generated by the struggle for liberation. However, patience and commitment to service excellence on the part of the building management staff in particular is reaping rewards. I want to commend our staff for their almost unique ability to keep our buildings sought after havens of tranquillity.

I believe it is fitting at this point to comment on the institutional growth of JHC within the framework of the black economic empowerment debate currently taking place within our country. As has become increasingly clear, empowerment is about effective management control and financial empowerment within an organisation. As I have watched caretakers who were little more than untutored security guards three years ago climb the steep ladder of knowledge and confidence which allows them to chair a rowdy meeting of highly articulate tenants, manage service providers, and meet both provincial housing officials, and even cabinet ministers, I have a real sense of achievement. I feel secure in the knowledge that these men and women have taken the opportunity to grow and are being paid a well earned salary commensurate with their responsibilities. I see the same process taking place at all levels of management within the organisation where control, confidence and responsibility devolve ever downwards and effort is repaid with hard earned financial reward. I sincerely believe we have no equal in this regard in the property management industry and my congratulations to the team, both management and board, who have created this.

I must pay tribute to my board, who have again provided valuable guidance in a year of rapid growth and considerable challenge. Messrs. Johan de Ridder, Mike Mohohlo and JP Landman resigned in the year under review. All were founder board members of JHC and we thank them for their wise council and support over the past four years. In their place we welcome Messrs. Eric Molobi, Yunus Mohammed and Dean Zwoitwaho Nevhutalu as well as Mr Yves Wantens who has replaced Mr Jan Van Heukelom as the representative of the Flemish Regional government.

A final welcome to all those coming into the inner city either for the first time, or as returnees. JHC is proud to have been here with them over the past four years.

Rev Mvume Dandala

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JHC 1999 Annual Report

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