The introduction of new housing legislation over the past year is indicative of our national government’s growing recognition of the valuable contribution that the development of rental and social housing can make in meeting the country’s enormous housing needs. The new Rental Act and in particular the passing of the Social Housing Act and the Housing Development Agency Act mark important milestones in post- 994 policy which, until recently, had retained an emphasis on home ownership as a critical pillar of our emerging democracy.
Government’s resistance to rental housing can be seen as a consequence of the fact that it was used by the previous regime as a means of influx control and reinforced the apartheid state’s policies of segregation and the disenfranchisement of the majority of people. However, current socio-economic trends, such as the increasingly high cost of living, high levels of unemployment and the growth of casualised labour in place of formal employment, have influenced a new perspective on rental and social housing. Facing the enormity of the housing challenge and recognising the successes that social housing has achieved, government is seeing greater value in rental and social housing as important elements in the national housing delivery strategy.
It is a point of note and pride that JHC, as a pioneer in social housing, has attracted the eye of our national government. JHC has demonstrated that social housing, accommodating mixed income groups in well located urban developments and consistently well managed, can make a valuable contribution to overall housing delivery. The fact that our CEO, Taffy Adler, has been invited by the Minister of Housing, Lindiwe Sisulu, to assist the national department in setting up the new Housing Development Agency highlights this point.
In the past year JHC was also honoured for its pioneering role in social housing development with Taffy being recognised as South Africa’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2007 by the international Schwab Foundation. This award recognises excellence in individuals who, through championing innovative approaches to social problems and implementing practical, high impact solutions, have significantly transformed the lives of thousands of people. It profiles entrepreneurial, market-oriented approaches that create social value.
These recent honours, together with the World Habitat Award which we won in 2006, are, in my view, recognition of some of the fundamental social values that JHC has entrenched through its housing practices. Among our tenants and staff, in our interactions with our peers and service providers, in our dealings with public and private institutional stakeholders, integrity, reliability, commitment and a ‘can do’ attitude have become hallmarks of JHC and our way of working.
Building on this foundation, the eKhaya Neighbourhood programme and the programmes of Makhulong A Matala are gaining ground. It seems that families now are actively seeking accommodation in JHC buildings, even in areas previously dominated by transient individual tenancies. Thus it seems that JHC is playing an important part in the reweaving of the social fabric in the inner city and in restoring stability.
As development in the inner city continues, however, renewed interest from the commercially driven property sector is making the provision of affordable, social housing more difficult. The City, with its various stakeholders, needs to find the right balance among diverse interests to make Johannesburg the inclusive city we envisage.
The 2007 Inner City Regeneration Charter goes some way towards this – setting out a common vision for the inner city, shared by the key stakeholders who were involved in creating the charter. The value of the charter is that it focuses all roleplayers to pull in the same direction. The Inner City Partnership Forum, launched in November last year, gives space to those role-players to participate in the processes of realising the vision. It recognises that the making of the city requires a collaborative effort. It cannot be achieved by the city authorities, or business, or social institutions acting alone.
The charter sets ambitious targets for the development of housing within and close to the inner city by 2015. It is not yet clear where the resources will come from to achieve these targets. With its own property company and its own housing organisation, we are now seeing the City itself taking a stronger role in housing delivery. While we may all agree that the City Council cannot simply wash its hands of the problem of housing people in the city, what we need to be wary of is an attempt by the authorities to solve the problem on their own.
When the City is competing with its own citizens to provide a service – whether it be housing, health, education or any other service – it raises the risk of unbalancing the playing field and limiting the roles and inputs of other stakeholders. The City, guided by the charter, needs to embrace all role-players and a balance of democratic interests rather than acting alone to impose monopolistic, state-owned and inevitably skewed solutions.
JHC supports the vision of the Inner City Regeneration Charter and participates in the Partnership Forum. We recognise that the emergence of government housing agencies at municipal, provincial and national level brings potential benefits – in terms of accelerating delivery. At the same time, however, it introduces the risk of locking state resources into governmentowned entities to the exclusion of other players in the private and social sectors.
It is already difficult to access housing subsidies from government. Furthermore, the subsidies are inadequate in relation to real property prices and increasing costs of construction. In addition, in Johannesburg, it is increasingly difficult to access land or properties at prices that support the provision of affordable social housing. In the face of these challenges we anticipate that the new housing legislation will open up new opportunities and encourage the growth of a stronger social housing sector.
JHC has taken the decision to extend its footprint beyond the Johannesburg inner city. This was motivated by a number of factors, over and above the constraints on inner city housing development already noted. The decision to go ahead with the development of Hlanganani at Cosmo City northwest of central Johannesburg recognises the city as a whole. Cosmo City is the first of government’s ‘Mega Projects’ and the lessons learnt there are likely to extend to other large projects supported by government. It is therefore entirely in keeping with JHC’s role as a social pioneer, to extend social housing into the wider metropolitan area.
In conclusion I would like to thank my fellow directors at JHC as well as all management and staff for their continuing support and their dedication – to the company and to the people we serve. Together we can look forward to new challenges and successes in the year ahead.
Click on the link below to view and download the complete JHC 2008 Annual Report:
JHC 2008 Annual Report