Joburg Housing Company wins UN Habitat award

© Johannesburg News Agency
By Lucky Sindane

The Johannesburg Housing Company (JHC) is celebrating after winning the 2006 UN Habitat Award for innovative and sustainable housing solutions.

The Building and Social Housing Foundation established the UN Habitat awards in 1985. The awards recognise projects that provide practical and innovative solutions to housing needs and problems.

JHC was set up in 1995 to create affordable rental housing in the inner city. To date it has established 2 700 refurbished housing units, providing accommodation for more than 8 000 people in 25 buildings across Johannesburg – from Troyeville and Jeppestown to Joubert Park and Hillbrow, in the CBD and in Newtown and Fordsburg.

It has won many accolades, including several housing, environmental and architectural awards. Newtown's new Brickfields development, in which JHC was a partner, made history earlier this year as the largest private-public partnership residential housing development ever in South Africa.

"We are very excited that our work has been recognised internationally," said Dombolo Masilela, the JHC marketing and communications manager. "We've made our country proud [with] this achievement."

Minister of Housing Lindiwe Sisulu said: "This is the first time this award has been awarded to a South African housing institution and is recognition, not only that JHC is a world-class institution, but of the pioneering role JHC has played in the regeneration of Johannesburg's inner city over the past ten years."

Her words were echoed by Murphy Morobe, JHC's chairperson. "In selecting JHC, UN Habitat has recognised the innovative solutions the company has applied to the problem of urban renewal, specifically within the battleground that is Johannesburg's inner city."

The award will be presented to JHC during the UN Habitat celebrations on Monday, 1 October in Naples, Italy.

JHC's eKhaya neighbourhood programme, which involves 30 landlords on the inner city's Pietersen Street who have been encouraged to clean up the area, has also been recognised as an international best practice. The programme includes greening the pavements, placing rest areas outdoors and installing CCTV cameras for surveillance.

It has brought down crime rates in the area, controlled grime and engaged local council departments to ensure proper management of the streets.

"The programme has been recognised by the City of Johannesburg and inspired a further three neighbourhood management initiatives in the Hillbrow, Berea and Joubert Park areas," Masilela explained.

"Our buildings are the envy of visitors from other social housing institutions both locally and from around the world. We achieve high occupancy and low arrears because JHC tenants recognise the excellent value for money through our management and maintenance of our buildings."

The City's member of the mayoral committee for development planning and urban management, Ruby Mathang, hailed the award as recognition of JHC's role in contributing to the turn around of the inner city.

"Not only is JHC now one of the largest residential landlords in the inner city, but its contribution to the City coffers for rates and utilities stands out, not only for its size but because what were once non-paying derelict properties are now productive contributors to the City's fiscus," Mathang said.

"JHC's Lake Success building in Hillbrow was the first building to be upgraded under the City of Johannesburg's Better Buildings Programme and JHC remains the largest participant in the programme," he concluded.

This article can also be viewed at www.joburg.org.za