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The city of Johannesburg is in the process of turning 37 abandoned factories into homes for almost 3,000 people.
Jacques Nel/Unsplash.
Finance & Innovation

The City of Johannesburg Is Turning 37 Factories Into 3,000 Homes


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Africa is urbanising faster than any other continent in the world, but its cities can’t currently contain the number of people flocking to them. In South Africa, and especially Johannesburg, housing shortages have become an ongoing problem in many low-income neighbourhoods. Join us here to take actions that support UN Global Goal 11, which aims to create sustainable cities and communities, including a specific target to ensure safe and affordable housing for everyone.

Like many major cities in Africa, Johannesburg has a challenge with housing.

A report by the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) found that 981,290 people migrated from other provinces to Gauteng between 2011 and 2016.

The city’s drawcard as South Africa’s economic hub has led to a housing challenge that, in recent years, has seen some townships come to a standstill as residents protest against housing shortages.

At the moment, there are at least 110,000 people living homeless in Johannesburg. 

Among recent protests sparked by a lack of housing are the 2017 shutdown in Eldorado Park and Freedom Park near Soweto, while Alexandra township came to a standstill in April this year when residents protested against a variety of service delivery issues.

These issues included a lack of adequate housing and demolitions carried out by Metro police and the Red Ants, a private security company in Johannesburg.

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But in a bid to start addressing the housing shortage, the city of Johannesburg on Monday announced that will handover 37 abandoned factories to property developers.

These will then be turned into low-cost housing.

These factories, Mayor Herman Mashaba said in a statement, will provide 3,000 housing opportunities.

“The abandoned factories that have been identified are located in areas such as Kew, Devland, Rabie Ridge, Doornfontein, Booysens, and Nancefield,” said Mashaba.

Alexandra is another of the areas that will benefit from the project. “Of particular interest are 16 factories identified in close proximity to Alexandra, offering the much-needed opportunity to reduce the density of settlement in this under-developed township,” Mashaba added.

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Mashaba said the next step is preparing a proposal that the city will present to the council in August.

This will make it possible for legal proceedings needed to pass on the building to the private sector to start.

“These factories will be expropriated within the existing legal framework of the Constitution,” he said. “For this we will utilise the fact that they are abandoned, owners are untraceable, and monies owing on these properties exceed their value.”

He added: “Once this has been granted, the city will be able to put these properties out to the private sector and award them on the criteria that achieves the largest number of residential units, the lowest rentals, the highest job creation, and investment.” 

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This project is the latest in several attempts by the city to find sustainable solutions to housing shortages.

In March this year, the city announced that it had passed the Inclusionary Housing Policy that rewards property developers if 30% of their housing units are reserved for households that earn less than R7,000 a month.

Rent is not allowed to go beyond R2,100. Reuben Masango, a member of the mayoral committee for development planning in the city, said the policy applies to more than 20 residences.