An eight-year-old City of Johannesburg initiative that has seen the rejuvenation and development of 22 housing projects in the inner city is ‘recycling’ and reusing existing structures rather than developing outlying low-density housing and adding to the urban sprawl impasse.
As a driver of the city’s 2040 development vision, The Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco) manages around 7 500 units, which are spread across several projects in the inner city and in the greater Johannesburg area, providing low-cost accommodation for 25 000 tenants, the majority of whom are classified as being in the ‘working poor’ category.
The company, which is mandated to buy or refurbish buildings into rentable residential housing units, as well as man- age and lease these units on behalf of the city, aims to densify further in-core locations where infrastructure and public transport networks will be less costly to maintain.
An intentional by-product of this focused urban residential regeneration is an increased level of attractiveness for investment in areas previously considered as high-risk.
“We hope that by drawing attention to the advantages of investing in the inner city, we will influence the way resources are allocated. While public policy discus- sions do involve the importance of the inner city and the dangers of urban sprawl, investment decisions should mirror the policy speak far more aggressively,” says CEO Rory Gallocher.
Joshco currently controls ten buildings in areas of the inner city of Johannesburg, such as Hillbrow, Berea, Joubert Park and City Deep, which offer units that vary from communal rooms to private two- bedroom units at rentals of between R600 and R4 200.
Several of the buildings acquired by Joshco were derelict commercial and residential buildings that had either been ‘hijacked’ by criminal factions operating in the city, or had been abandoned by the owners.
Gallocher emphasises that the housing options developed by Joshco are designed and priced to respond to the diverse low- income market in the central business district, but believes that through sus- tained and sustainable development, this market could expand to include middle- income or high-income earners.
“The regeneration of the inner city must accommodate the needs and interests of a wide spectrum of people, but the equilibrium sought must include appropriate support for low-income individuals who depend on the inner-city hub for their livelihood,” he asserts.
In October 2010, Joshco was awarded the United Nations 2010 Scroll of Honour for its holistic approach to housing provision in Johannesburg.
The award recognises initiatives that have made outstanding contributions in various fields, such as shelter provision, highlighting the plight of the homeless and providing leadership in postconflict reconstruction, and was an important international nod for the home-grown agency.
Not only has Joshco provided permanent housing solutions, but it has also converted a disused warehouse in New Doornfontein into a 160-bed emergency accommodation facility that offers temporary refuge to those displaced by disasters such as fires.
Later this month, the company will launch its flagship residential rejuvenation project, the AA House, a 216-unit development in Wanderers street, offering 30 communal units, 162 bachelor units, 18 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom units.