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Jhb inner city housing for 50,000

08 May 2007
Housing is an emotive issue, and the residential development group was possibly the most volatile at the Inner City Summit on 5 May. But it was agreed that the City would lead an inner city housing plan for tens of thousands of residential units in Joburg's central area. By Ndaba Dlamini

Inner city residents called on the City to speed up the provision of affordable housing for the homeless and to act against corrupt practices by property owners at the Inner City Summit.

A culmination of a long, participative process to explore a wide range of issues affecting the Johannesburg inner city, scores of inner city residents, property owners, business people and City officials came together at the Braamfontein Recreation Centre in Braamfontein on Saturday, 5 May to review and give input into a draft Inner City Regeneration Charter.

The charter is a result of numerous stakeholder working group meetings and contains strategic approaches to all aspects of upgrading the inner city, such as waste management, creating residential accommodation, crime prevention, the possible formation of improvement districts, informal trading and aesthetic improvements.

Executive Mayor Amos Masondo, the initiator of the process, opened the day's proceedings, after which people broke into groups looking at six broad sectors, namely economic development; residential development; social and community development; public space and arts, culture and heritage development; transportation; and urban management, safety and security.

The residential development commission, the largest breakaway group of the six sectors, was chaired by the member of the mayoral committee for housing, Strike Ralegoma; the member of the mayoral committee for infrastructure and services, Roslyn Greeff; and the executive director in the City's housing department, Uhuru Nene. It may well have been the most volatile group, with various inner city civic groups voicing their discontent with the initial process, which they said was not inclusive.

Civic groups
Edmund Elias and Jo Ndhela represented the People's Summit Initiative, an organisation comprising about 12 separate civil society organisations, including the South African National Traders' Alliance, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, the Inner-City Resource Centre and the Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation. They called for fair representation of civic society in the process.

"Most of the people who are directly affected by the inner city charter were not consulted. Most of them have not even seen or read the draft charter. We therefore call for an increase in and strengthening of the consultation process to come up with plans that will address all our problems," Ndhela said.

Reiterating Ndhela's point, Elias said the inner city charter should take account of the poorest of the poor and the working class living in the inner city. This group should have access to housing subsidies and a mechanism should be developed to ensure that those who were renting flats could take ownership of their flats and houses after a certain period of time.

A provision in the charter should be made to deal with unregistered management agents and property owners who neglected their business, Ndhela added. "These property owners usually misuse funds, don't pay rates and leave us residents in the cold after the building has been expropriated. Such practices should be stopped."

Johannes Dube, a blind resident from Ward 66, said the Better Buildings Programme should make provision for people with disabilities. He called on property developers to build ramps when making renovations to buildings.

Speaking about plans by the City's Better Buildings Programme to accelerate renewal and to bring old buildings to market for new residential development, one inner city property developer called for a limit to the number of buildings any one developer could buy. This would stop concentration of ownership among a few developers.

The Better Buildings Programme, however, should ensure that it did not increase homelessness for the poor and vulnerable, said one resident, who gave his name as George Ntuli, from Ward 66. "Evacuations should be stopped," he said.

Draft charter
Ralegoma said the draft charter would be re-written to include comments from the summit. Although the summit was a pivotal part, it was not the end of the process.

Nene admitted that the issue of housing in the inner city was a thorny one and that the area had not been able to keep pace with demand for affordable housing.

The City of Johannesburg, working with all partners and stakeholders, will lead a housing plan that provides or ensures that 50 000 new residential units are built in the inner city or near to it.

The plan, to be agreed upon by a majority of stakeholders, will provide a wide range of options, including shelters for the homeless, emergency accommodation, affordable rental or social housing at various income levels and inclusionary housing done on the basis of creative partnerships between the public and the private sector.

If all goes well, the City will release the first phase of the plan by the end of July 2007. This will further be developed into a second phase operational plan by December 2007.

Speaking at the end of the summit, the City manager, Mavela Dlamini, said the City would continue to hold meetings with stakeholders to resolve some of the issues. The final version of the Inner City Regeneration Charter would have to be agreed by the mayoral committee before it was passed. – Ndaba Dlamini

Readers' Comments
Great initiative. Long overdue. Great leadership from the Mayor Amos Masonda. Less talk and more action now that we have direction.

VIVA… - Isaac Chalumbira

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