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The City of Johannesburg is at work to secure a future in which residents, instead of driving or commuting to work, will either walk or cycle on designated lanes currently being rolled out, Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau said at the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco) at City Deep on Wednesday December 3.

The celebrations coincided with the launch of the City Deep Project, a 708-unit social housing development that, among other things, boasts roads, pedestrian walkways, gardens and other amenities.

Joshco, mandated by the City to address human settlement and urbanisation disparities, has over the past 10 years invested more than R1.8 billion in the provision of a total of 7 000 homes and the refurbishment or construction of 8 749 housing units, with ambitious plans to increase the number to 13 600 units by the end of June 2017. The ongoing City Deep Project – it is expected to be completed by May next – entails transforming the old segregated dormitories into a contemporary living space in a safe and secure environment.

Mayor Tau said the flagship project – winner of the 2014 South African Housing Foundation’s Best Social Housing Project award – represented the vision of Johannesburg’s future, one of accessibility, equality and dignity.

“Joshco in fulfilling its mandate to transform these monuments of South Africa’s historic inequalities into sustainable thriving spaces,” said Mayor Tau.

“The City Deep Project is a demonstration of the City’s commitment to redress historic spatial inequalities through, among other things, the rehabilitation of mining land in line with our Corridors of Freedom programme. This programme seeks to realise our spatial vision of well-planned transport arteries that are linked to interchanges where mixed-use development, high density accommodation – supported by office buildings, retail development and opportunities for leisure and recreation – exist.”

Mayor Tau said the City would spend a total of R3.3 billion on infrastructure development along the Corridors of Freedom over the next three years.

He commended Joshco for being at the forefront of transforming social housing as well as former single-sex hostels into family friendly, dignified and accessible homes. In a bid to create accessible social housing, Joshco offers affordable and secure rental units for citizens who earn between R3 500 and R7 500 a month.

Said Joshco CEO Gallocher: “One of the factors that threatened social housing was non-payment of rentals by tenants. Our tenants can expect delivery of service, while we expect them to pay rent on time every month and to respect the buildings and the rights of other tenants. The collection rate up to the end of the last audited financial year was 88%, up from 46% in 2006. Joshco is progressively improving this to achieve an average of 97%.”

He said education played a large role in Joshco’s operations. “Often our tenants are first-time renters, so the rights and obligations of a responsible tenant need to be communicated. This is done through workshops that Joshco’s tenants are obliged to attend before signing a lease agreement,” he said.

The Mayor, Member of the Mayoral Committee for Housing Councillor Dan Bovu, Gallocher, members of the Section 79 committee and several other dignitaries had earlier visited the recently completed Fleurhof, where the Mayor handed three families the keys to their new homes. MMC Bovu said Fleurhof reminded him of the old Sophiatown, “an area where we knew no colour, where we were all one and equal. It’s a true representation of a rainbow nation”.

The 10 000-unit Fleurhof Estate is a transit-orientated development that boasts 452 social housing units. The area is close to schools, parks, shops and places of work.