South Africa : Change has come to City Deep Hostel

By Ndaba Dlamini

Johannesburg - The once uninhabitable and murky City Deep Hostel has been converted into an attractive family space, complete with play grounds for children.

The former men-only hostel, located a few kilometres southeast of Johannesburg's city centre, is now a brightly coloured home to more than 200 families.

Even though work to convert two remaining blocks is still in progress, the change is breathtaking, reports

Originally designed to contain and isolate a single-sex labour force, in the late 1970s the old hostel became the home of hundreds of municipal workers.

These municipal workers, predominantly men, lived in squalid conditions and the hostel became a health hazard in dire need of repair.

The City of Johannesburg, through the Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco), stepped in, in 2005.

The compound offered a potentially large supply of high-density, low-income rental housing stock, which is in very short supply in the city.

In a drive to eradicate its housing backlog and as part of the national government's Hostels Redevelopment Programme, Joshco embarked on a comprehensive facelift of the complex by converting dormitories into comfortable living units suitable for families.

Refurbishments involved replacing the roofs, paving around the buildings, constructing and cleaning storm water drains and replacing the old industrial windows with residential windows.

At the start of the project, Joshco chief executive Rory Gallocher said Joshco intended giving City Deep a comprehensive facelift by converting dormitories which were designed for containment into comfortable living units suitable for families.

"Not only will the hostel building itself be converted into family units, but we will also build new units on vacant land adjacent to the hostel," he said.

The first phase involved an investment of R6-million to develop 123 units. The units were completed in 2006 and opened amid much excitement from the families who occupied them.

"First preference was given to city staff who had been staying at the hostel for a very long time and had tolerated all the inconveniences of staying in a hostel," said Sydney Seema, Joshco's housing supervisor.

Allocation of units also rests on a points system and documentation that clearly spells out the affordability and requirements of the families.

The single- and double-bedroomed units in the first phase have been priced to cater for city staff hostel dwellers who earn up to R4 000 a month.

According to Joshco's allocations policy, suitable tenants must:

· · be South African citizens;
· · qualify for a state housing subsidy;
· · be registered on the project waiting list; and
· · be able to afford rental payments, which must not exceed 25 percent of gross monthly income.

Phase two of the project has recently been completed, with 92 families allocated their units. This phase involved renovating the four-storey A and B blocks into bachelor, one-, two- and three-bedroomed units.

"Each unit comprises a bathroom and toilet, kitchen and bedrooms, and has running hot and cold water," said Mr Seema.

An inner courtyard flanked by brightly coloured two- and three-bedroomed flats is being developed.

He said phase three of the project, to be completed by the end of February, will yield 60 units.

Additional units will be constructed as a greenfield project to the north of the hostel to cater for those people who cannot be accommodated in the refurbished complex. - BuaNews