28 Aug Joburg residential development to spur integration
Lesiba Matlala lives in Fleurhof, west of Joburg, in the type of residential development the ANC wants major cities to mirror to promote integration.
But Matlala, whose freestanding house is part of a mixed-income development, says this sort of carefully engineered social environment doesn’t quite feel natural to the people who live in it.
“Before we thought of buying here the people were opposed to this development. They held meetings where they objected to our houses on grounds that we were going to devalue their properties,” he says.
But then existing residents and their new neighbours united to fight a new threat: to a plan by the developer to put up a multi-storey block of flats between their homes.
“When I took a bond with the bank on my property, I was told that the upkeep of my neighbours’ properties could affect the value of mine, he said.
This mixed-income mixed-use residential development is contained in the ANC’s discussion documents for its national general council as a blueprint for integrated residential areas and social transformation.
The plan is to get the well-off and the poor to live side-by-side by offering bonded, subsidised and affordable housing, all in the same suburb.
The ANC proposes a new permit regime to compel developers to set aside units within residential developments for lower-income groups or, develop accommodation for lower-income families in adjacent areas.
In all instances, according to the document, adequate provision should be made for the construction of supportive social infrastructure such as schools and retail space.
“It is proposed that 20 percent of all residential developments constitute lowcost to affordable housing prescribed through the permit,” the party proposes.
“This can be achieved on site or in an alternative location initially to overcome negative perception about property value depreciation.”
Renas Mudzielwana, another resident, initially cancelled his application for a house in Fleurhof Ext4 in 2012 after he found out his house would be in the shadow of a block of flats. Although he’s accepted it now, he is not happy because his house was an investment, he said.
Tinus Erasmus, Fleurhof project manager with Galgrow M3, admits that integration will remain a challenge for the foreseeable future.
He said the principle of densification was slowly being accepted as affordability was addressed, making home ownership a reality for a much wider community. “The majority would prefer to reside in a big house on big stands, but affordability does not allow the majority to afford this standard of living.
“This results in the need for smaller homes and higher densification of land. We retain our policy of integrating communities with those within and under the Financial Charter market (max R750 000 purchase price) as resistance by those who can afford is higher.”
Erasmus adds that the perception smaller houses or high density units were occupied by people of a lower social class was not true. Flats could be closer to employment or investments.
According to him, the Fleurhof project was well received as it provided infrastructure and housing stock.
Erasmus said statistics showed that 1.6 million families were looking at buying houses in the lower and affordable end of the market.
Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu stated in her budget speech earlier this year that more than 2 million households still needed to be catered for in the subsidised market.
Erasmus said experience had shown that with time, integration would take place and broader representation was evident in such areas.
Professor Philip Harrison, SA research chair in development planning at Wits University, welcomed the proposal for inclusionary housing developments saying it would contribute to increasing the number of units in mixed income developments.
“We’ve been talking about it for 15 years. What is needed now is national legislation to drive this policy because municipalities cannot do it alone.
“What we want is to establish a norm that development must be mixed income so we don’t have poor townships.”
But Harrison insists this proposal is not going to solve the housing problem.
“I think the residential development permit might provide the instrument long awaited to achieve integration.”
Peter Dacomb, chairman of the Association of Consulting Professional Planners, says attempts have been made before, not by municipalities, to request that developers allocate a portion of development land to a particular income group, but this hasn’t worked well.
“It appears to be sincere, but the market is not used to it and it is regarded as foreign and cannot work,” he says.
“From a spatial planning point of view the idea is sound. It’s a direct intervention to do away with segregated developments, but whether it is going to fly in the open market is yet to be proven.”
Dacomb urged the state not to shift its responsibility of securing affordable housing for its citizens to the private sector. Seeff Properties chairman Samuel Seeff says by meddling in this sector “you may well discourage development from taking place”.
“While the principle of mixing lower cost housing into developments may well be sound, it may not work in practice. For example, while there is a huge shortage of affordable housing, buyers are having great difficulty obtaining finance and this area is seen as high risk by the banks,” he explains.
“Just by mixing lower cost housing into developments in the more established suburbs, you are not necessarily going to address the problem of housing, nor are you necessarily going to achieve more balance in home ownership – there are bigger economic issues at play here.”
For Matlala and his neighbours in Fleurhof, attempts to lure more people of varying means into a single development has only served to make them apprehensive and the barriers are yet to be eliminated. “There is hardly any social interaction between high and low income residents. Maybe with time… but for now it remains elusive.”