Joburg Property Scheme To Renew Inner City

Johannesburg - A ground-breaking property scheme, launched in the City of Johannesburg today, is expected to give the inner city a much needed face lift.

Apart from addressing urban decay and rejuvenating the CBD, the ambitious Inner City Property Scheme has been described as one of the biggest broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) transactions in the property field.

"The Inner City Property Scheme is an original and ground-breaking development that puts Johannesburg at the leading edge of modern thinking on the regeneration of the urban environment," Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo said at a media briefing on Wednesday.

Explaining what had lead to the establishment of the scheme, Masondo said the city was concerned with the manner in which some residential buildings located in the inner city had deteriorated.

In some instances, absentee owners had abandoned the buildings without making an investment in its maintenance, while in other cases, buildings were simply taken over and turned into a haven for criminal activities, Masondo noted.

Previously the city intervened through the Better Buildings Programme - where the focus was to take so-called bad buildings and turn them into better buildings. In some cases, the city would expropriate the buildings and offer them, mostly through auction, to investors who were willing to complete the required refurbishment and pay the outstanding rates.

However, Masondo said the Better Building Programme only achieved moderate success and was hamstrung by factors such as the lengthy expropriation process, the screening of participants and requirements to provide transitional housing to evicted people.

The Inner City Property Scheme, developed by the Department of Economic Development, is viewed as the solution to these issues and will result in expropriated properties being transferred to an Inner City Property Portfolio, in the process of being passed on to a new company.

"It is expected that BBBEE participants will hold the controlling shares in this 'Newco'. The participating entities were selected through a request for proposal process and are required to provide a minimum equity contribution of R5 million," he explained.

This makes the scheme one of the most far-reaching BBBEE transactions introduced in the country so far, as well as the biggest in the property field, Masondo added.

The scheme will see the city transfer properties that are dilapidated, abandoned, illegally occupied or hijacked to Newco through a development lease with an option to buy.

The City will retain ownership of the properties until it is satisfied with the regeneration and rejuvenation of the properties. The option to buy will only be exercised once the dilapidated property has been refurbished.

"Another equally important feature of the Inner City Property Scheme is the creation of a panel of BBBEE service providers that will be responsible for the refurbishment work. This will include, amongst others, builders, carpenters, electricians, security companies, landscapers and maintenance companies," Masondo said.

Participants in the scheme will be required to, as far as possible, make use of the businesses on the panel.

Masondo said the city was also taking steps to provide transitional housing for residents already living at the buildings in question.

"A Transitional Housing Trust has been formed to manage this process. It will enter into an agreement with the city to provide transitional housing beds over the duration of refurbishment work on the selected buildings," the Mayor explained.

Masondo said he was confident that the scheme would breathe new life into efforts to rejuvenate the inner city and attract new businesses, investors and tenants.

In addition, the scheme would also address the decline of the inner city; combat urban decay; create the biggest black-owned inner city property scheme in the country, and empower businesses in the construction and maintenance sectors, he said.

- BuaNews