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Property entrepreneurs: Sowing the seeds of inclusivity in SA’s inner cities

12 Dec 2019

The Inner City Property Conference, hosted annually by TUHF Limited, took place at the Sunnyside Hotel in Parktown, just north of the inner city, on 30 October. The event welcomed a line-up of highly anticipated speakers, which included industry leaders, business and investor stakeholders as well as government representatives.

Image source: Trafalgar Square, close to Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and the Transnet Port, is a newly renovated two-storey apartment block providing affordable housing to Port Elizabeth’s North End suburb - read the story.

The rebirth is underway, but challenges remain

Across South Africa, our inner cities are experiencing a rebirth that is challenging old preconceptions and turning these once dilapidated spaces into some of the most vibrant, desirable and affordable places to live and work.

With a global trend toward urban living and the appeal of accessibility to property investors and residents alike, disused spaces are being transformed into thriving communities. This is affirmed by the trend whereby people are replacing large outlying properties locked away behind suburban walls and conveniently creating entire neighbourhoods inside their very own ‘living rooms’ – within walking distance to work, shopping, transport and dining opportunities, and returning to compact lock-up-and-go apartments that better suit today’s busy lifestyles and affordability.

“TUHF Limited has financed over 38 000 units in all eight metros of the inner cities of South Africa, over the last 17 years with a loan book of over R3.2 billion. We see multiple and diverse economic opportunities downtown coupled with easy access to transport and other opportunities in our country’s inner cities,” said CEO and Co-founder of TUHF Limited, Paul Jackson.

But as conference attendees learned, there are complex obstacles that need to be resolved such as security and social inclusivity. “Urban management and criminal elements remain a challenge that we strive to overcome,” added then Mayor Herman Mashaba. 

Image source: Bjala Square in Jeppestown, Johannesburg, has four stories for residential living and an extra two for community projects and parking, as well as street-level retail space - read the story.

Prof. Francois Viruly, Property Economist and Associate Professor at UCT, kicked off his talk with a presentation of global inner city and national property trends, stating that in South Africa over the last six years, the top growth sectors in property have all been residential.

Applying this to the inner city context, Viruly argues, smaller living spaces become practically viable, affordably drawing in more residents and stimulating local economies from the ground up. He cites Amsterdam as an example where a thriving inner city has been able to revive a vibrant night-time economy to create business and employment opportunities, presenting us with the tempting possibility that the same might happen in South Africa’s biggest metropoles, where unemployment and crime continue to hamper the unmet potential of our cities.

Read more stories about TUHF entrepreneurs

A stellar cast of speakers

Mayor Herman Mashaba spoke broadly on political drivers for property growth and the accomplishments of the Johannesburg municipality when it comes to making affordable housing and student accommodation more widely available. “We see immense potential in Johannesburg’s inner city. We are working towards expropriating unused dilapidated factories and releasing them in a fair way to property investors to convert to safe and affordable accommodation units in the inner city, so addressing the dire demand for housing and regenerating the city”.

Hayley Ivins-Downes, Head of Sales at Lightstone Property, delivered a data-rich overview of the national inner city housing market, followed by Andile Zondi, Regional Manager (KwaZulu-Natal) for the South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC), who spoke on the challenges and mitigating opportunities including authentic stakeholder engagement and proactivity when it comes to construction site-disruption in the South African construction industry.

This modern loft in Marshalltown, Johannesburg, is ideal as a lock-up and go apartment, or for a professional working in the city. It is selling for R895 000 - click here to view.

Ralph Mathekga, PhD, took the audience on a deep dive into ancient history and the lessons modern, democratic metropoles can learn from the urban planning of ancient Greece, in a fascinating talk entitled “From City State to Nation State, and… Back to City State: The Political Economy of Local Democratisation”. Rethinking the inner city, he posits, requires reimagining the city as a democratically shared space through spatial planning and public participation.

Cities, people, plants

A greening panel on Practical Greening in the Inner City was made up of Chilu Lombe, Partner at Solid Green Consulting South Africa, Grahame Cruickshanks – Market Development Executive at the Green Building Council of South Africa and Nic Barnes – Chairman of JPOMA (Johannesburg Property Owners and Managers Association).

Barnes stated that, “Pre-billing utilities sees a 20 to 25% saving in consumption which not only saves limited natural resources, but also operational time and management whilst increasing affordability for tenants.”

Key points from the discussion included measuring and monitoring energy consumption, as well as making data driven decisions in greening.

This two bedroom apartment in Marshalltown, Johannesburg, is modern and stylish with city views. It is on the market for R730 000 - click here to view.

Restoring our Inner cities to glory

If the Inner City Property Conference has one key takeaway, it is that while promising progress is being made, it will take all parties involved to work together to overcome the challenges applying international best practice but ensuring local relevance.

Founded in 2003, TUHF Limited’s funding, training and support enables property entrepreneurs to purchase, refurbish or convert derelict inner city buildings into safe, decent and affordable well-located mixed-use rental spaces.

64% of TUHF’s clients are marginalised entrepreneurs. Most of these entrepreneurs’ projects were made possible with the help of TUHF’s Intuthuko Equity Fund, a specialised fund founded in 2004 that helps first-time property entrepreneurs who are also previously disadvantaged enter into the property market by supplementing their equity.

For more information, visit the TUHF website.

Read about entrepreneurs'stories, click here

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