Property prices in Joburg city centre out of reach for poor

Posted On Friday, 05 January 2007 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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The revival of Johannesburg’s inner city has seen an escalation in the value of property, making it more difficult for government and non profit organisations to provide much needed social housing for low-income earners.

Taffy AdlerAlthough still a bargain compared to upmarket Sandton and other areas in the northern suburbs, properties in the inner city have tripled in value. This has been encouraged by tax incentives offered by government to assist with revitalisation and development of 16 of SA’s cities.

Taffy Adler, CEO of the Johannesburg Housing Company and responsible for the successful mixed income Brickfields housing development, said yesterday that the dream of creating sustainable human settlements will fail without the co-operation of government and parastatals, who are selling large tracts of the land they own in the inner city.

“Local councils, provincial authorities, national departments, such as public works, and parastatals like Transnet, are disposing of land to the highest bidder on public auction,” he said. “This places centrally situated land and buildings beyond the reach of the poor, as it makes it impossible for any developers to offer accommodation at an affordable price.”

The plight of the inner city poor and the low-income earners is a concern for the city, which was ordered by the Johannesburg High Court in March last year to halt evictions until it could provide other accommodation.

The city has struggled to keep up with the influx of people to this economic hub. If the African National Congress is to meet its pledge to get rid of shacks by 2014, Johannesburg needs to build 48000 new units a year. The city is building only 14000, according to a report released by mayor Amos Masondo.

One goal is the creation of rental stock within inner cities and close to work opportunities. This will reduce the amount of money and time spent commuting to and from the city. Large parastatals such as Transnet, Eskom and Denel have over the years accumulated urban and industrial properties that are not considered essential to their core business. These properties are now selling as part of government’s plans to promote urban and light industrial development.

Adler said government needed to develop a co- ordinated strategy when it came to the sale of land which considered these policies. “Unless government at all levels sees land disposal as part of its pro-poor policy, further developments like Brickfields, which is the prime example of a successful public-private partnership, will remain on the shelf of good intentions,” he said.

Mixed income developments make it possible to cross-subsidise rental properties, which helps compensate for reduced government subsidies. The Brickfields project has 30% subsidised units which makes it possible for some tenants to pay rent 20% below the market rate.

But there was little chance that the project would be able to expand because the value of the surrounding land had escalated based on Brickfield’s success, said Adler. Experts predict property in rejuvenated inner city areas will increase in value, particularly ahead of the Soccer World Cup in 2010.

Efforts to get a response from the City of Johannesburg and the Gauteng housing department on its land policy, and the contradictions being created by inner city revitalisation, were unsuccessful yesterday.

Last modified on Friday, 16 May 2014 19:00

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