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Thursday Jul 05, 2012

French to fund affordable high-rise property in Joburg

Affordable housing for lowest-income earners in Joburg's inner city has been given a huge boost with the signing of two funding agreements worth a quarter of a billion rand.

Atkinson House in Joburg is to be converted into 500 affordable units.

One of the agreements involves Agence Fran├žaise de Developpement (AFD), a development aid body for the French government, which made available R150 million to finance housing for the lowest income earners who make less than R3 750 a month.

Traditional South African financiers have refused to lend funds for this low end of the housing market.

AFD is giving the funding over to the Affordable Housing Company (Afhco), which will build 1 300 housing units for about 3 000 residents in the inner city. Afhco will be investing R23m of its own money into the project. Five buildings will be converted into units that will offer private kitchens, stoves, phones, DStv aerials, 24-hour security, but shared ablution facilities.

The historic 1936 CBD building, the old Chrysler, now called Atkinson House, is to be converted into 500 affordable housing units. The building takes up an entire block in Eloff Street.

Afhco chief executive Renney Plit said the funding was a major boost for the city.

Although Afhco has been a major private-sector player in the inner city in providing affordable rental housing, it has catered for those earning less than R10 000.

Those falling into the R3 750 bracket have had to rely on RDP houses, which are outside the city; shacks in townships; or hijacked buildings in the inner city.

This rental scheme is aimed at domestic workers, security guards, gardeners, clerical staff and informal traders.

The French ambassador, Jacques Lapouge, said at the signing of the AFD agreement that France had long history in providing social housing.

Chrysler House, as it was then called, was a motor showroom and servicing centre and was considered a skyscraper in the early 1930s, at 11 storeys high.

As it is 74 years old, Afhco will have to obtain a heritage permit to start reconstruction, which should happen within a few months.

Other buildings Afhco will be developing include Platinum Place in New Doornfontein, Connaught Mansions in Bree Street and Rodi Street.

The second funding agreement involves R125m that had been made available to the Trust for Urban Housing Fund (TUHF). This money will be used to carry on financing the revamp of buildings in red-lined areas, where commercial banks will not lend money. The TUHF has already financed more than 200 previously disadvantaged individuals.

It has refurbished more than 15 000 units across SA and converted more than 500 buildings into affordable accommodation in the inner city. Chief executive Paul Jackson said the company had attracted equity investments from large organisations such as the National Housing Finance Corporation, Futuregrowth Asset Management and the Public Investment Corporation.

The Star

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