Joburg Housing

Mashaba launches affordable housing — but not for foreigners

By Bheki C. Simelane 20 November 2018
Caption
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – DECEMBER 01: City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor; Herman Mashaba during a media conference to mark his 100 days in office on December 01, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mashaba said that time is running out for illegal immigrants in the city centre and he has already engaged a number of embassies to discuss the issue. (Photo by Gallo Images / Daily Sun / Jabu Kumalo)

City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba launched a new social housing project in Turffontein on Tuesday, again sending a message to foreigners that they are not welcome.

Occupants of Joburg’s new housing project need to meet certain criteria to be selected for units — and chief among them is that they have to be South Africans.

In launching the project on Tuesday Mayor Herman Mashaba was emphatic — foreigners should not bother to apply for access to any of the 525 units because checks will be done to determine the nationality of prospective occupants.

Mashaba said the R191-million social housing project was aimed at poor South Africans and “marks an important step in the City’s efforts to respond to the most urgent needs of residents, with safe and affordable housing being a priority”.

The units are only (to be) occupied by those legally permitted to occupy the units — our poorest residents,” Mashaba said in a statement later.

This is not the first time Mashaba has said foreigners will not benefit from City housing projects. In August 2017 he said he would never build houses for foreign nationals.

According to a description of the project, the development is comprised of an inner courtyard, with a play area for children in each block. There is ample parking space and a biometric access control system.

Units consist of one- and two-bedroom communal rental units targeting people earning between R1,500 and R15,000 a month.

A group of women discussing the prospects of benefiting from the project said the rent was fair, but raised concerns about the selection criteria for beneficiaries, especially that foreign nationals would not be allowed.

Our men are foreign nationals. How are we going to leave our men behind? Who is going to take care of our children?” the women asked.

Potential residents were also doubtful about Mashaba’s promise that occupancy will take place in December, saying he might be raising hopes ahead of the 2019 elections.

For all we know the man could be on a campaign for his party,” one woman said.

The exclusion of foreign nationals is one of a number of criteria for potential occupants. These included that they be Johannesburg residents, earn between R1,500 and R15,000 a month, and not be in debt.

Mashaba also indicated that the housing project should be free of churches and shebeens.

Turffontein residents who have already applied for housing have received text messages acknowledging their applications, but many were concerned that corruption would affect the allocation of units. Allocation would be done by the Johannesburg Social Housing Company.

Aphiwe Sontundu, 29, who has been staying in a “very small room” in Turffontein since 1999, said she was looking forward to being allocated a unit, adding that the place where she presently lived was too expensive.

Johannesburg’s housing backlog sits at about 300,000 units for people who can afford to pay some form of rental.

This missing middle-income group is comprised of individuals who are above the income threshold to qualify for RDP housing and fall short of qualifying for bonds,” Mashaba said.

Providing access to opportunities for residents to live in dignified dwellings was one of the ways the multi-party City government would ensure the delivery of services.

The issue of housing in the city has been a big headache for Mashaba, who has often blamed inadequate accommodation on undocumented and illegal foreigners.

At Tuesday’s launch, Mashaba said that after complaints he received from residents, he ordered an audit into the legal status of occupants at City properties. A report from this audit will be presented at the end of March 2019, he said.

Areas covered by the audit included:

  • Whether the rightful tenants were occupying the units and that no subletting was taking place;

  • Whether the occupants were South African; and

  • The socio-economic conditions of occupants (household income and employment status). DM

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