Massive new housing plan for Soweto

04 Sep 2007

Plans are being drawn up for the biggest housing development in the province, including homes, schools, social and work facilities, as well as an agriculture hub.

Doornkop Greenfields, one of the biggest mixed-use housing developments ever undertaken in Gauteng, will add about 22,000 homes to Joburg's housing stock, as well as about 1,900 agricultural lots.

The City of Johannesburg is drafting a business plan to set up the new township, which will form part of greater Soweto.

Johannesburg and the Gauteng department of housing are driving the project, with the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) providing support for the development of the business plan.

The JPC will present this plan to the provincial department and the City for final approval in October.

The proposed development will be on the western border of Soweto on agricultural land that is currently undeveloped. Once the township is established it will be a natural extension of the greater Soweto area. It is anticipated that the project will break ground in the first two quarters of 2008.

Most of the land is public-owned, with 59 farm portions belonging to the Gauteng provincial government and one portion belonging to the national government.

As the municipal-owned entity tasked with the acquisition, development and management of council-owned properties and land for the City, the JPC is responsible for acquiring the 11 portions of privately owned land in the project area.

Charles Davis, a project manager at JPC, confirmed that his unit was working closely with the legal advisers to Gauteng housing's Professional Resource Team (PRT) and the City's legal advisers to have the government-owned land donated to the City of Johannesburg.

"JPC, the PRT and the City are making strides in discussions with government departments. Although progress is slow, the legalities behind such transfer are very technical and time consuming. Once all the land parcels vest in the City, we as the project team will proceed with the required township establishment."

In return, the council has agreed to write off any outstanding rates on the properties owed by the provincial government, in lieu of the inherent land value.

Another 13 privately owned properties will be bought to consolidate the land, eventually leading to the establishing of a township on the entire site. "The City has authorised JPC to proceed with negotiations to purchase the land, being funded by the Gauteng department of housing."

Land would be bought on a "willing-buyer-willing-seller principle", Minister of Housing Lindiwe Sisulu said when she announced the development in parliament in July.

Housing and farming
A residential and an agriculture hub will be developed. Subsidised and bonded housing units will be built, based on a mixed-use model.

Subsidised housing will be awarded to beneficiaries selected from the 1996-'97 Gauteng housing waiting list and specifically to people from the west of Soweto.

"We are busy preparing the financial and cost model for the subsidised, fully bonded and credit-link housing (opportunities)," Davis said.

The types of units will vary from free hold and semi-detached to higher-density units such as walk-ups and row housing. Row housing is similar to semi-detached, but comprises more than two houses linked to one another.

Walk-ups are a low-rise, higher-density housing option. They are similar to flats, but could go up to three storeys or more, where the entire building or complex is located on a single stand and there are stairs rather than lifts. The site is geo-technically constrained, but in the interest of best planning practices, the City is trying to achieve a well-integrated mixed-use developed that will serve all and will prove to be sustainable in the long term.

Housing tenure options will range from full ownership to social housing stock, rental and sectional title, if feasible. "The project will comprise of mixed income groups, mixed design and mixed tenure housing options with a significant agriculture hub," Sisulu confirmed.

Mixed use preferred
At a recent Gauteng housing summit, the MEC for housing, Nomvula Mokonyane, confirmed that mixed housing developments would receive preference over the one-size-fits-all approach of past estates.

A similar mixed-use plan was initiated in Cosmo City in Johannesburg's northwest, where 12,500 housing units are being built over the next three years.

"The roll-out will be similar to Cosmo City, but not based on the same turnkey projects, with the Gauteng provincial government and the City continuously involved," Davis said.

Doornkop has the potential for social, commercial and industrial developments. The residential component will be supported by business centres, transport interchanges and social facilities. Schools and required social facilities will be built at the same time as the housing.

The project planners are already in initial talks with the Gauteng department of education – and bulk infrastructure upgrades will form part of the project. The project costing for a fully fledged sustainable neighbourhood, with all supporting amenities, facilities and infrastructure, is being done as a whole.

According to the City's latest Spatial Development Framework report, the site provides some of the last viable expansion opportunities for Soweto. Intensive farming and agricultural activities are proposed for the agricultural hub on the western side of the area.

"The development is expected to unlock the inherent development potential on what is predominately under-utilised farming land," stated an article in JPC's Proptalk magazine.

Doornkop Agrihub
The Doornkop Agrihub, part of the overall development, will consist of 1,900 small agricultural lots with associated economic, business and social facilities, and supporting infrastructure forming part of the economical viability of the proposed development.

"This project is enhancing this [agricultural] potential, making the agricultural component an economic driver, with potentially 10,000 working opportunities," Davis confirmed. Both farm and production-related jobs in medium to high-end markets will be initiated.

Greenfield projects are undertaken in areas where unoccupied land is developed as part of a new township, or as part of an existing township where an undeveloped parcel of land is made available for use.

The project is linked to the Breaking New Grounds principles that were originally highlighted by the minister of housing in her September 2004 presentation to the cabinet.

The principles form part of the national housing policy, which aims to deliver affordable housing in sustainable and habitable settlements. - Emily Visser

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