Upwardly mobile are moving back into the inner city

By Anna Cox

© The Star 2005-06-15

A new breath of life will be injected into the inner city as the first tenants are expected to take occupation of the new Brickfields residential development in Newtown on July 1.

Already 50% of the flats have been taken; a sign that there is a huge need for such residential accommodation, said Dombolo Masilela, marketing manager of the Johannesburg Housing Company (JHC).

The R98,7-million Brickfields project is the largest public/private partnership in residential housing development ever in South Africa, and the first residential development in the inner city in the past 30 years. It is expected to contribute largely to Newtown growing into a major shopping, entertainment, business, retail and residential hub.

The 600-unit block offers one- to three-bedroom flats catering for people in the lower, middle and high-income groups. Rentals cost R1 242 for a one-bedroom unit, R2 376 for a two-bedroom flat and R2 750 for a three-bedroom unit.

Income levels range from R1 500 to R12 000, with 60% of tenants in the lower-income group, and 40% in the middle to high levels.

“We are having mixed-income groups, as we have in all our other social housing buildings in the inner city, to prevent ghettos emerging. It works well and we have never had problems regarding this.

“There is a new fibre of people coming back into the inner city. They are upwardly mobile with good incomes, from all walks of life, such as lawyers, bankers, nurses and policemen.

“They use our housing projects as springboards. While paying affordable rentals, they acquire other necessities and luxuries such as cars and furniture, and then move on to property ownership,” said Masilela.

As with their other projects, a crèche and afternoon homework classes, supervised by students of the Wits College of Education, will be established for tenants’ children. At a later stage, a computer centre will also be put into Brickfields.

The JHC also runs Makhubu a Matala, which is a community development wing aimed at empowering tenants. It runs counselling courses, teaches skills such as beadwork, and provides early childhood development courses, and bricklaying and building skills for the unemployed tenants, who are then used in the construction and renovation of JHC buildings.

The second phase of Brickfields, which has already started, will see a further 350 to 400 housing units being built at a cost of about R100-million.

The Brickfields project is a joint venture between the Gauteng Housing Department, the Gauteng Partnership Fund, Anglo American Corporation, Absa, ApexHi and Anglo Gold.

The National Housing Finance Corporation injected R25-million into the development and the City of Johannesburg provided land.

“We are proud that the financial institutions are on board. We believe the JHC has been instrumental in breaking down red-lining in the CBD. We did this by proving, through our other successful inner-city buildings, that with proper management, sound financial results can be achieved.

“Although we started with funding, today our running costs are covered through rental income,” she said.

So far the JHC, which is a pioneer in social housing, has put 4 000 people into homes in the inner city, by either constructing new buildings or renovating old ones which had turned into slums. It has contributed to an additional 8% of housing stock in the CBD.

It has successfully renovated 17 buildings in the CBD, Hillbrow and Berea and converted them into social housing, and will be completing another three this year.

The company is currently renovating Rondebosch and Stanhope Mansions, two notorious, run-down buildings in Hillbrow.