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Freedom housing

02 June 2014, 10:54

 The shape of things present and things to come for Gauteng housing is united, mixed, and prosperous in the form of “freedom era mixed housing townships”.    Throughout the Gauteng landscape, “freedom era mixed housing townships” are transforming the spatial character of the province and restructuring society into a rainbow nation.  Freedom townships are also contributing to the vision of development through access to education, employment and job opportunities.   

Old era townships emerged as a response to a growing, predominantly black workforce, the policies of an erstwhile non democratic era preferred native reserves and temporary work related urban periphery settlements on the part of predominantly black and poor.  The old black townships of Alexandra and Soweto become workers compounds and centers of poverty and minimal services.

Prime considerations in freedom era townships is integration and family life-  where there are places of worship, education, work and play  this is intended to cut both distance, cost and break down the separating wall of citizen and subject among the races and income streams.   The twenty-six projects existing throughout Gauteng are placed on well located land, which is close to work opportunities, existing services such as sewer networks, electricity and roads. Flagship projects like Cosmos City phase 1 and phase 2 (Malibongwe Ridge); Fleurhof; Lufereng; Danville; Chief Mogale;  and Obed Nkosi Mthombeni have a uniqueness that has earned them mention in plenteous publications,  public address and studies.

In the first instance Cosmos City attracted unparalleled opposition that even lead to court battles for fear that property prices would decrease, and years later the decision of government to defend its choice has become vindicated and has accrued unsung praise with property values actually increasing as a result of the mixed housing.

The affordable housing entry price in Cosmos city was R 260 000 but it soon increased by R 100 000 to R 360 000 in the first four years of its ten year existence.  This was vindication for the rationale of mixed housing as beneficial to all South Africans, and that state- subsidized (RDP) houses which are part of mixed housing would not depreciate property prices.  The cases, for which government was hauled to court, were clearly unfounded based on this apparent property value increase.

The court cases were however significant on two accounts, they allowed a public test case for the Breaking New Ground strategy that would come into effect in 2005, since Cosmos city was conceived in 1998 by the City of Johannesburg and the Gauteng Department of Housing-  a good seven prior to the BNG.  Secondly the Gauteng Province became a pioneer- through Cosmos City- of mixed housing development in South Africa.  Mixed housing also makes international sense; the history of residential racial division is something only unique to South Africa.

Consulting project manager and direct for Urban Dynamics, Jean –Luc Limacher said, “To foreign nationals, the hype over mixed housing development is not understood until one explains the segregated history of South Africa. Mixed housing is the right thing to do, in the case of Obed Nkosi Mthombeni, you are creating one community out of two, in Hieldeburg and Ratanda. That means that you are integrating services, amenities and rationalizing municipal spending”.  France born and educated Limacher has been extensively involved in four mixed housing projects in Gauteng including Savanna City, Middevlei Integrated Housing, Obet  Nkosi Intergrated Housing, and Cosmos City integrated Housing. 

  Another significant project in mixed housing is the Elandspoort Danville project which according to consulting project manager Wami Nhlapo of Gamont Housing PTY, is an infill project that fits the definition of mixed housing.  “In Danville one has state subsidized (RDP) houses that stand next to bonded housing.  The standard and quality of the RDP houses fits the property values of the bonded houses while also integrating white, coloured and black residents”, he said. 

 At the launch of the Elandspoort Danville, mixed housing project President Zuma cited mixed race settlements as giving every citizen a place to belong in South Africa and as honoring the late President Nelson Mandela, this means that the label freedom era townships is appropriately placed and that the present and future shape of things for Gauteng is definitely mixed, united and integrated.

Percy Makholwa 

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