Life’s a beach if you can get to it

2015-03-29 15:00

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In 2005, Ballito, the jewel in KwaZulu-Natal’s Dolphin Coast crown, was home to a mere 12?000 well-heeled residents who were more than happy that the up-market coastal village remained something of a secret.

Ten years later, Ballito’s population stands at about 30?000, the result of a coastal residential and commercial property boom, which saw the original number double to 25?000 in 2012 after Durban’s airport was moved to become King Shaka International in La Mercy for the 2010 World Cup.

The roofs of a housing estate in Ballito dot the skyline. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya

The exclusive hamlet, like Umhlanga, Tongaat, Mount Edgecombe, Salt Rock and Sheffield Beach, has grown as Durban expands to the north thanks to a series of private and public sector residential and commercial developments.

Local property prices have risen on the back of increased demand. Entry-level properties in Ballito now go for R1.8?million to R3?million, with the most expensive netting up to R50?million.

Neels du Plooy, an estate agent with Harcourts Dolphin Coast, said despite a five-year depression in the property market nationally, demand and prices had continued to rise “very nicely” in Ballito and other areas to the north of the city.

Construction begins on another new development in Ballito. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya

“The airport and all the development along the coast has made a vast difference,” said Du Plooy. “A lot more people are buying here. We have people from Gauteng who live here and fly up and down to work on Mondays and Fridays. The lifestyle and the low crime levels make it attractive.”

He said estate living had caught on because of a lack of existing houses for sale and the perception that it provided a safer environment.

Homeowners buy stands in estate areas and then build on them. A 1?000m2 stand with no sea view costs R400?000 to R600?000. A stand with a sea view costs between R1.4?million and R1.8?million.

Estates agents are also flourishing. The number of them plying their trade in Ballito has trebled from the 100 it had fallen to five years ago after a slump in the property market.

Commercial development in Ballito has been massive, with a 30?000m2 lifestyle centre currently under construction at a cost of R3.2?billion, to add to the four shopping malls that already exist.

Umhlanga, also the scene of massive commercial development, is a mere 20 minutes away. An estimated 20?000 hectares of former sugar cane land has been turned into residential and commercial estates by Tongaat Hulett Developments.

It’s not only the well heeled who are moving north. In April last year, President Jacob Zuma opened Cornubia, a R25?billion mixed-income state housing project that will house 100?000 residents when it is completed in 2040. It includes an 80ha business and industrial park and will be linked to the city and the northern business and hotel areas by a rail link being developed by the city and Transnet to boost growth and deal with the heavily congested northern road network.

From the Phoenix township, where the eThekwini Municipality has created the Bridge City Shopping Centre to serve it, KwaMashu and Inanda, there’s almost wall-to-wall development to Ballito.

The Gateway shopping centre development, which started 14 years ago, along with up-market apartment complexes and hotel projects, has created massive growth in the Umhlanga area.

A new road interchange between the N3, Umhlanga and Mount Edgecombe is under construction to deal with the increased traffic volumes to the north of the city.

the freshly prepared foundations of a new building development await construction in Mount Edgecombe. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya

The King Shaka site and Dube Tradeport are stimulating industrial and commercial development in the northern zone, with new housing projects springing up in the Tongaat area.

Durban entrepreneur Andrew Layman said the key factor in this boom had been the relocation of Durban’s airport in 2010.

“Development creates a momentum of its own. The relocation provided the impetus. There are a limited number of landowners, so big projects are quite easily developed, as you don’t have a multiplicity of landowners to deal with,” he said.

This, coupled with provincial and local government’s massive infrastructure investments, which will include a rail line to the north, created a desire on the part of investors to get involved.

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