The concept of inclusionary housing has become the new mantra of government and other agencies concerned with the delivery of affordable housing in the drive to create inclusive cities. JHC welcomes this approach. Indeed, the pioneering work that we have done over the past 12 years demonstrates the practical realisation, and the sustainability, of what today has come to be called inclusionary housing. Through our new-build, refurbishment, upgrade and conversion projects located in different neighbourhoods across the city, we have introduced a range of accommodation options to suit a mix of income groups and households – single tenants, people sharing accommodation, and families. In different buildings, to a greater or lesser extent, domestic workers, students and professionals live side by side, and most importantly, their children play together.
For JHC, inclusionary housing is as much about creating an inclusive and supportive social milieu as it is about the physical structure of shelter and the economics of mixed income groups. Our success is, at least in part, a result of the way in which we have answered to the social and political aspirations of citizens in the new South Africa. By developing rental housing in the inner city, where people want to be, and by consistently delivering value for money accommodation in safe, well managed and maintained buildings, and providing a range of community support services, JHC has been able to create the kind of buildings that people want to make their home.
It has, unfortunately, become a regular feature of the annual Chairman’s Report to note the widening inequality between rich and poor in the population that the inner city accommodates. The poor bear the harshest impact – being forced either into deplorable living conditions in unhealthy and unsafe buildings, or out of the city altogether. JHC’s accomplishments and the contribution we have made, together with other agencies, to inner city regeneration, have undoubtedly influenced the burgeoning demand for inner city housing – especially rental housing – which far exceeds present supply levels. This undersupply of housing is pushing property prices in the inner city to new highs. With simultaneous increases in costs of construction and utility services, the task of delivering affordable housing at the scale required to meet demand is becoming increasingly difficult.
Recently, the Constitutional Court reserved judgement on the ruling of the Supreme Court of Appeal concerning the right of the City to evict poor people from dangerous buildings. The Constitutional Court, instead, called on the parties to settle the matter among themselves. They have subsequently reached an agreement which will see the City providing temporary accommodation while improving the two buildings in question for the residents’ return. While this case highlights the need to provide accommodation for the poor in the city, close to employment opportunities and city amenities, it also underscores the need for a concerted, supportive response from the City to relieve existing restraints which hinder the supply of housing.
If we are to achieve the aim of creating an inclusive city, the City government must co-ordinate and streamline all the resources and processes within its control to enable supply to catch up with demand. Here we refer to City services such as the issuing of clearance certificates; accelerating planning processes and approvals; fast-tracking of infrastructure upgrades where they are required; and expediting utilities connections to new and upgraded buildings. These are the normal functions of any City government and currently the City is not providing them at the level required to meet the development challenge.
The City has failed, too, to grasp the major opportunity to bring affordable housing on stream by facilitating the release of government-owned land and/or buildings, at historic cost, for housing
development. JHC is currently the largest developer of buildings within the City’s Better Buildings Programme. When you consider that we have developed four of the twelve buildings that have been awarded over the seven-year life of a programme which could encompass hundreds of buildings, the size of the challenge to the City becomes apparent. The release of land must also be accompanied by a significant increase in the level of subsidies. We call on government at national level to move towards increasing subsidies to keep pace with the increases in property prices. The release of government-owned land and an increase in subsidies will make a major contribution to alleviating the shortage of accommodation.
The recently proclaimed Inner City Regeneration Charter proposes an additional 75 000 housing units to be developed within and close to the inner city by 2015, with an estimated 20 000 of these units being affordable to people in the lower income bands of the market. In order to meet these ambitious targets, the City recognises the pressing need to improve efficiencies in its processes to support accelerated delivery, and the need to work with established social housing institutions and other players in the affordable housing sector to expedite delivery. While the vision conceived in the Charter is commendable, what we need now is an action plan that maps out the steps to be taken to co-ordinate the contributions of all stakeholders.
The Charter also addresses, among other considerations, the parallel and interrelated requirements for improved urban management, safety and security and improved public spaces. In this regard, JHC’s experience in the process of developing the eKhaya Neighbourhood network in Hillbrow over the past three years is instructive. This initiative recognises the importance of management not only inside buildings but also on the street and in the neighbourhood environment. With the network of building managers and caretakers built up over time and relationships with City agencies becoming stronger, we are now seeing a growing number of building owners joining the eKhaya Neighbourhood Association and more buildings in the neighbourhood being refurbished, contributing to a general improvement in the area. Most notable, however, is the impact made by eKhaya’s recent introduction of street security and cleaning teams. By the simple act of establishing a formal presence on the streets, in effect giving notice to everyone in the area that this is a managed neighbourhood, we have very quickly seen a marked reduction in attempted crimes and a significant improvement in the cleanness of the streets, sidewalks and alleys.
While we urge the City to improve efficiencies in its operations and we welcome the vision of the Inner City Regeneration Charter, I would also like to note here, our thanks to the City Councillors, in particular, Councillors Greef, Ralegoma and Tau, and to Executive Mayor Amos Masondo, for their support of inner city renewal and of JHC.
I would also like to express our thanks to the National Minister of Housing, Lindiwe Sisulu, and the Gauteng MEC for Housing, Nomvula Mokonyane, and their departments, for their support.
In conclusion, I want to thank my fellow directors and all JHC management and staff for their hard work through what has been a challenging year. My thanks also go to all the inner city stakeholders, including our tenants, for their shared commitment, assisting us in our aim to accommodate and nurture healthy, stable, and inclusive communities in the inner city.
Click on the link below to view and download the complete JHC 2007 Annual Report:
JHC 2007 Annual Report