UN award for Jo’burg housing group

© Business Day

By Chantelle Benjamin
Johannesburg Metro Editor

The Johannesburg Housing Company (JHC), one of the largest inner-city residential landlords, has managed to keep its rent arrears at 3% for 10 years, despite catering largely for the lower end of the market.

This achievement and its innovative solutions to the city’s chronic housing shortage has earned it the UN Habitat Award, which is to be presented to CEO Taffy Adler in Naples, Italy, next month.

Adler yesterday attributed the company’s success to providing residents with value for money and doing so in a manner that let them lead dignified lives. “There is a lot of work at the coal face, such as reporting systems and structures that create a sense of community and pride in the buildings,” he said.

Adler said the company drew on best practice from North America and Europe in particular.

Residents were encouraged to report maintenance problems at the security desk on leaving in the mornings to be dealt with during the day. Credit control identified residents who might need financial management courses, which the company ran quarterly, helping to curb defaulting on rent, said Adler.

Ruby Mathang, mayoral committee member for the inner city, hailed the award as recognition of the nongovernmental organisation’s contribution to turning the inner city around.

“JHC’s contribution to city coffers for rates and utilities stand out, not only for its size but because what were once nonpaying derelict properties are now productive contributors to the city’s fiscus,” he said.

In the year to June, JHC generated rental income of R36,1m despite sharp cuts in government subsidies.

Adler said the company’s success was also an obstacle as successful development in the inner city had driven up property prices, making it hard to provide low-rental accommodation.

“The JHC is now looking at other areas where the market is not working and property is still reasonable, such as Germiston’s city area and Westbury.”

The company beat finalists in India, China, The Netherlands, the Philippines, the US and Uruguay for the award, which it shares with Pakistan.

Since 1995 the JHC has inve-sted R250m and developed 2700 homes in the inner city, adding 8% to the residential stock of the inner city.