Mbeki slates 'pro-rich' housing

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Johannesburg - "Pro-rich" housing developments needed to be stopped in order to end settlement along race, gender and class lines, said President Thabo Mbeki on Friday.

"There is a perpetuation of settlement patterns along racial, gender and class divisions... This we must bring to a speedy end," he said at the opening of the Brickfields housing project in Newtown.

Golf estates, gated communities and other developments where the rich were given access to the best land were an obstacle to a non-racist, non-sexist society, he said.

The Brickfields development represented the start of a non-racial society and would help break down barriers between the first and second economies.

"We have been able to resurrect what was clearly becoming a wasteland into a place of hope, a place that inspires confidence into the future," he said.

Blacks were forcibly removed

Brickfields had been a brick-making yard and "multicultural slum" in the late 19th century, housing immigrants from Europe, China and India as well as Cape Malays and blacks.

The area was destroyed in 1905 when blacks were forcibly removed.

Mbeki said Brickfields showed it was possible to regenerate inner cities and avoid situations where slum lords took derelict buildings and charged people rent to live in them.

"We should increase our efforts to bring to book those responsible for this unacceptable behaviour."

He asked Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo to "attend urgently" to the hijacking of buildings in the inner city, done to extort money from people.

Brickfields and the neighbouring building, Legae, were 90% full with 1 500 people already having moved in, said Murphy Morobe, chairman of the Johannesburg Housing Company.

The project had a total of 1 400 units, including subsidised ones. Rent ranged from R1 242 for one-bedroom apartments, to R2376 for a three-bedroom flat.

The total cost of the development is R98 440 000, with funding provided by the Gauteng housing department as well as the private sector.

Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa said developments like Brickfields and Cosmo City mitigated the result of rapid urbanisation and would help eradicate informal settlements.

No noise from parties

Daphne Motjelele said she had moved into Brickfields with her two sisters after water leakage in their previous flat in central Johannesburg.

"It's safe, it's clean and it's more relaxing. You can study at night because there's no noise from parties," she said.

One of the architects who worked on the project, Melissa de Billot, said that having various income groups living together would "definitely work".

"It was a great project in which to get involved."

Having been involved largely in luxury developments, she said: "It's nice to see money going into (accommodating) this level of income (group). It's been very rewarding.