Low-cost housing is necessary – not free

Funzela Ngobeni, the City of Johannesburg’s MMC for Development Planning said that in order for the City’s economy to be sustainable, affordable and inclusive, development needs to take place.

“People said low-cost housing devalues their homes, but for the City to be sustainable we need to live and work together. We cannot think our economy will be sustainable if we exclude certain people. We will be vulnerable to an unstable economy; we will see protests, often,” he said.

The MMC said that part of the country’s history shows that people were put in areas that are very far from job opportunities. People spend half their income on getting to and from work. This injustice, he said, is what needs to be addressed. He said that people do not always understand the magnitude of the housing, poverty and inequality challenges the City faces.

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The inclusive housing policy, being drafted by the City and the South African Property Owners Association, would make sure that when development does take place, it will be catered for mixed-income groups.

This is different to what leaders had in mind when Johannesburg was first being developed with segregation in mind.

A development framework exists that says areas that will be able to grow the economy, have space for affordable housing, access to public transport and social amenities should be identified and developed. The Corridors of Freedom is a framework already put in place by the previous administration, which continues under new leadership. “It is a development approach that is used worldwide,” Ngobeni said.

Improving informal settlements, and building houses and infrastructure is what the current administration will focus on. “We will not be able to build houses for each and every resident in informal settlements, but we can spend money to make it livable while we continue to build houses.”

And the 10 per cent annual influx of people to Joburg forced the City to implement the framework with urbanisation in mind.

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Creating housing, opportunities and infrastructure for over 4.5 million people – and counting – can be done, Ngobeni said. But it needs to be anticipated and plans need to be made. “Urbanisation is here; we cannot run away. People want to come to cities, people are moving to cities all over the world but if cities are not ready, they will collapse,” he said.

Cities need to be built inclusively, he added. Ngobeni’s goal, he explained, is building a Joburg that everyone’s children can enjoy.

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Chantelle Fourie

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