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​​City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor Cllr Herman Mashaba this week inspected City-owned properties that have been earmarked for conversion into low-cost housing in the inner city.

Mayor Mashaba was accompanied by Member of the Mayoral Committee for Economic Development, Cllr Leah Knott, and City officials from Group Forensic Investigative Department, Department of Economic Development, the Johannesburg Social Housing Company and the Johannesburg Property Company.

Last week, the Joburg City Council approved a plan to tackle the housing challenge in the inner city. The plan seeks to create safer, cleaner and more connected communities with access to economic opportunities. It is estimated that about 30 000 accommodation units are required in the short term to address the needs of the most vulnerable households within the City.

“I visited the hijacked Vannin Court building and JOSHCO’s AA and 27 Hoek Street buildings. All these buildings are located within the inner city, close to public transport hubs and places of work for our people,” Mayor Mashaba said.

“At Vannin Court, I engaged with residents who informed me that they pay R700 for a single room to a landowner whose identity is unknown to the City. At this building, crime and grime is the order of the day. Hazardous conditions have been normalised. Illegal connections to municipal services are rampant.”

The Mayor added that buildings such as Vannin Court were an example of “what happens when lawlessness is allowed to reign”. A few streets down the road, Mayor Mashaba was pleasantly surprised.

“The AA building tells a heartwarming story. In 2012 the building was successfully won over by the City from hijackers, and through JOSHCO, was revitalised into a low income building. The building is clean, neat and well maintained.

“Residents at this building contribute from as low as R800 for a single room in exchange for basic services such as water, electricity, sanitation and refuse removal and a safe environment. The building also boasts an early childhood development centre and secure play area for young children. All of this within the inner city.

“The AA building is a symbol of hope for the inner city; an example of what can be achieved if law and order and political will prevails,” the mayor said.

He said through the Inner City Housing Implementation Plan, the City of Johannesburg aimed to make the inner city housing market work better for the poor.

“As part of our efforts to reclaim the inner city, we will continue to intensify multidisciplinary raids within hijacked buildings in order to fight criminal slum lords who live off the desperate need of our residents.

“The City is also conducting socio-economic and needs audits of those living within those buildings in the hope of providing much needed support,” Mayor Mashaba said.

The City was also taking all possible steps to determine the identity of the owners of hijacked building in order to begin the process of reclaiming these spaces. Where owners cannot be identified, the City will look to expropriate these buildings so as to use them for housing development.

In its effort at revitalising the inner city, Joburg was also addressing safety, cleanliness and access to economic opportunities. To this end, the JMPD has recruited 1 500 new officers who will provide enhanced visible policing within the inner city.

The City has already allocated R50-million to Pikitup to include a third shift to clean the inner city.

“I am confident that by working together with all sectors of society, we will be able to turn the inner city into the heartbeat of the City and a place of opportunity for all our residents,” Mayor Mashaba said.