Sexwale focuses on dilapidated buildings

2010-10-19 14:29

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale hopes to address the country’s housing backlog by claiming back old dilapidated buildings and making them habitable.

“People keep on saying that we need land to address the housing backlog,” Sexwale said today at the unveiling of the Cavendish Chambers housing project in central Johannesburg.

“But we have these old dilapidated buildings that we can refurbish and put our people there.”

The minister said the project, located behind the South Gauteng High Court in the CBD, would be used as a prototype to address the country’s housing shortage.

The building was constructed in 1950 and became vacant in the early 1990s. However, it was illegally taken before being bought by the Afhco Group in 2006.

Immediately after evicting illegal tenants, construction began in 2008 and the building was opened last year for low-income earners.

“The city is coming back ... cities never die,” Sexwale said, adding that during his tenure as premier of Gauteng he was pained to see the demise of Johannesburg’s inner city.

It was because of the private-public partnership that the city was becoming the Johannesburg it used to be.

“Inner cities of Paris (France), New York (the US) and London (England) also went down, so this is not a unique South African situation.”

He said about 2?500 informal settlements in the country were indicative of the government’s difficulties in providing people with decent houses.

Close partnerships between business, the government and communities were needed to address this.

“Why worry about when we will get space to build houses if we can find these old buildings, rejuvenate them and provide housing for our people?”

Sexwale warned building hijackers, saying that his department was currently in talks with the police and the Hawks about enforcing evictions and stopping the trend.

Melissa Mnguni, who had been living in one of the units in Cavendish Chambers since last year, said the flat was convenient as it was close to a taxi rank.

“The rent is a bit steep. But considering the fact that this flat is safe and everything is very close, it’s worth it,” said the 30-year-old trainee nurse, who works at Garden City in Mayfair.

The fact that the building was a walking distance from the Carlton Centre shopping mall also made life easier for Mnguni. “I won’t change this flat for another flat.”

Mnguni, who hails from Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal, lives in one of the project’s 120 bachelor flats.

Each flat is fitted with a telephone, a small kitchen, a shower and ceramic tiles. And access to the building is controlled with a fingerprint system.

There are a total of 187 flats, but only two of these are two-bedroom units.

The rent ranges from R1?260 to R4?160 a month. At least 75% of the project has been occupied.

Furthermore, the building is near a Bus Rapid Transit station and the Lister Medical Centre.

Sexwale said: “Where we stay should be in close proximity to where we play, work.”

He emphasised that under President Jacob Zuma’s leadership his department was focused on bringing quality housing to South Africans.

He said most people living in shacks and informal settlements were “parking their hopes”, waiting for the government to deliver on its promise to give them quality houses.

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