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Thursday Jul 12, 2012

Derelict Joburg properties transformed as housing

Eight buildings, most of them in derelict areas in the inner city of Joburg, have been refurbished by the Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco).

The buildings - in the CBD, Berea, Joubert Park, Hillbrow and New Doornfontein - were previously occupied by criminals and squatters.

The buildings were gutted and transformed into affordable, secure and mainly communal accommodation, with rent from as low as around R600 a month, by the housing company.

Joshco, which falls under the City of Joburg, has provided accommodation for about 25 000 tenants, and manages 7 500 units spread across 22 projects in the inner city and in greater Joburg.

According to Joshco chief executive Rory Gallocher, there is much more to be done in the inner city as there are still around 130 bad buildings.

"Some of them would be suitable for us to rehabilitate and redevelop, thereby providing an important boost to the accommodation supply in the inner city," he said.

Years ago, he said, the only thing property owners wanted to talk about was selling up and getting out. However, things have changed.

"On the occasions that we have been in the market to buy property in the inner city, we have experienced difficulty finding buildings that are priced at a level that would allow it to work for our market because of high demand."

He believes that order can be brought to inner-city buildings.

"Order and livability can replace chaos and discomfort through basic management. We believe in the proper management of buildings by implementing a well-informed and factually accurate plan, where rules are clearly stipulated," he said.

The buildings that Joshco have developed in the inner city, as well as the tenants accommodated in these buildings, come from chaos, but have "seemingly transformed to order", he said.

Gallocher said the housing company was not trying to revive the past, but trying to manage the present and invent the future.

"It is not a reality that most inner-city residents are middle or high-income salaried people. A very significant number are people in low-wage employment and who are self-employed, either trading or doing domestic work or some other means of generating income to survive. Many are small entrepreneurs whose activities work because of their location," he said.

Gallocher said business in the inner city wanted good management of buildings.

"If they have that, the inner city is an attractive place for business," Gallocher said.

The buildings are Casa Mia in Hillbrow, once a degraded hotel that was invaded; Chelsea in Hillbrow; MBV in Joubert Park; La Rosabel in Hillbrow; Raschers in Loveday Street; Selby and Europa House in the CBD; and Lynatex in New Doornfontein, which is used for temporary, emergency accommodation.

One of the tenants, Nomcebo Zulu, lives in La Rosabel in Joubert Park. She moved there from shared accommodation in Berea.

"I have my own one-room flat now. I have my fridge and small stove in the room and I am happy," she said.

The Star

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