© The Star
By Anna Cox
The Johannesburg Housing Company has been awarded the prestigious UN Habitat Award for its pioneering social housing projects in Johannesburg's inner city.
The two housing companies that receive the award each year are selected from housing companies worldwide which have come up with innovative and sustainable housing solutions. It is the first time that a South African company has been a recipient.
The award of a trophy and £10 000 (R144 500) will be presented to the JHC at the annual United Nations celebration of World Habitat Day to be held in Naples, Italy, on October 6.
The other award winner this year is the Aga Khan Planning and Building Service in Pakistan.
Murphy Morobe, the JHC's chairperson, said that in selecting the JHC, UN Habitat had recognised the innovative solutions the company had applied to the problem of urban renewal, specifically within the battleground that was Johannesburg's inner city.
Since 1995, the JHC's board, staff, tenants, consultants, contractors and service providers have invested R250-million and developed 2 700 homes in 21 buildings, adding a further 8% to the residential stock of Johannesburg's inner city.
Some 8 000 men, women and children in the city now call a JHC building their home.
Minister of Housing Lindiwe Sisulu said she was very proud of the JHC for winning the award.
"This is the first time it has been awarded to a South African housing institution. It recognises that the JHC is not only a world-class institution, but plays a pioneering role in the regeneration of Johannesburg's inner city," she said.
Ruby Mathang, a councillor and member of the mayoral committee responsible for the inner city, hailed the award as "a recognition of the JHC's role in contributing to the turn-around of the inner city".
Not only is the JHC 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.
The UN Habitat Awards were established in 1985 by the Building and Social Housing Foundation. The awards recognise projects that provide practical and innovative solutions to housing needs and problems.
The projects have to bring other benefits as well, such as energy or water saving, income generation, social inclusion, community and individual empowerment, capacity-building or education.
All JHC buildings are mixed-income developments, thus avoiding the problem of establishing ghettos, experienced by some other countries.