Johannesburg Housing Company wins UN Habitat Award

27.09.06 | Uncategorized

I am thrilled to copy out here an email I received yesterday.  The Johannesburg Housing Company has fundamentally altered Johannesburg’s inner city, introducing residential accommodation where for years there was none, and making a place for low-middle income people in the city.  I’m sure all of South Africa is just as delighted as I am.  Well done JHC.











The Johannesburg Housing Company (JHC) is delighted to announce that it is a recipient of the 2006 UN Habitat Award.


The UN Habitat Award is the longest standing and most prestigious international award for innovative and sustainable housing solutions.


Two awards are given annually to projects that provide practical and innovative solutions to current housing needs and problems.  The award of a trophy and £10,000 are presented at the annual United Nations global celebration of World Habitat Day.  This year the UN Habitat Celebrations will be held in Naples, Italy, on Monday 2nd October, 2006.   The other award winner this year is the Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, Pakistan – Building and Construction Improvement Programme.


The UN Habitat Awards were established in 1985 by the Building and Social Housing Foundation.  The awards recognise projects that provide practical and innovative solutions to current housing needs and problems.  The projects have to be able to be transferred or adapted for use as appropriate, view the term habitat from a broad perspective and bring other benefits as well such as energy or water saving, income generation, social inclusion, community and individual empowerment, capacity building or education.


National Minister of Housing, Lindiwe Sisulu said she was very proud of the JHC for getting the award. “This is the first time it has been awarded to a South African housing institution and is recognition, not only that JHC is a world-class institution, but of the pioneering role JHC has played in the regeneration of Johannesburg‘s inner city over the past ten years.”


“In selecting JHC, UN Habitat has recognised the innovative solutions the company has applied to the problem of urban renewal, specifically within the battleground that is Johannesburg‘s inner city. Since 1995, JHC’s board, staff, tenants, consultants, contractors and service providers have invested R250 million and developed 2700 homes in 21 buildings, adding a further 8% to the residential stock of Johannesburg’s inner city. Some 8000 men, women and children now call a JHC building their home in the city,” said Murphy Morobe, JHC’s chairperson.


City of Johannesburg Member of the Mayoral Committee responsible for the inner city, councillor Ruby Mathang hailed the award as “a recognition of JHC’s role in contributing to the turn around of the inner city”.  “Not only is JHC now one of the largest residential landlords in the inner city, but its contribution to the city coffers for rates and utilities stands out, not only for its size, but because what were once non-paying derelict properties, are now productive contributors to the city’s fiscus.  JHC’s Lake Success building in Hillbrow was the first building to be upgraded under the City of Johannesburg‘s Better Buildings Programme and JHC remains the largest participant in the programme,” he said.


JHC’s eKhaya Neighbourhood Programme, which involves landlords getting together to clean up the precinct, has also been recognised as an international best practice.  Over two years, JHC has facilitated the programme which now embraces over 30 buildings in Pietersen Street, Hillbrow.  The programme has succeeded in bringing down crime, controlling grime and engaging local council departments to ensure proper management of the streets.  The programme has been recognised by the City of Johannesburg, and inspired a further three neighbourhood management initiatives in the Hillbrow/Berea/Joubert Park areas.


All JHC’s buildings are mixed income developments, thus avoiding the establishment of ghettos of poverty which internationally have been the site of major social disorder, most recently in riots in Paris.  Integrating income groups provides any development with social and financial stability.  Higher rents subsidise poorer residents, and social integration allows for good role models to influence social behaviour   This is particularly true of interaction between children, and JHC’s community development programmes are pioneering as a way of addressing the social disintegration so evident in Johannesburg‘s urban transition.  Makhulong a Matala, JHC’s community development arm, runs 5 aftercare centres and libraries, supports four crèches and administers sports leagues for 14 building based soccer teams and 4 netball teams.


JHC has never in its 10-year history had arrears or vacancies levels above 5%, a true indication of consumers voting with their feet. At the end of the 10the financial year, JHC had a bad debt rate of 0.03% and a 1.54% vacancy rate.


“At 98% occupancy and 3% arrears, JHC’s achievements in these two key areas of sustainability are widely acknowledged. We have kept at around these levels throughout our 10-year existence. Our buildings are the envy of visitors from other social housing institutions both locally and from around the world.  We achieve high occupancy and low arrears because JHC tenants recognise the excellent value for money through our management and maintenance of our buildings.  All JHC buildings have an in-house caretaker, a 24-hour security service and a daily cleaning service.  In addition, there is a commitment to a 24- hour turn around on any maintenance complaint.   JHC also has a long-term asset preservation programme which deals with large expenditures such as lift refurbishment, waterproofing and painting,” said Dombolo Masilela, JHC’s Communications Officer.


JHC’s building management practices have also given a significant boost to emerging contractors.  Over 1000 people are indirectly employed in the various services JHC procures.  A number of black owned businesses in the cleaning, security and maintenance areas have grown substantially over the ten years they have had a relationship with the company.  This growth is not only in terms of revenue and jobs, but also in terms of the levels of service and skills required to meet JHC rigorous standards.


An important feature of JHC’s method of operating has been the constant level of innovation in architectural design and construction management.  Excellent design and planning are fundamental to building healthy communities.  JHC has collaborated and consulted with both local and international companies but used only local design and planning firms. Prior to building or renovating, the company runs workshops to discuss the building work. Critical evaluation has been done on projects by international consultants from Singapore, England, Belgium, France, the United States and Canada.  Indeed JHC runs exchange programmes with similar social housing institutions in both advanced and developing countries, and many JHC staff at all levels have experienced their first overseas trip as part of these exchanges


Focus groups of tenants, building managers and service providers are brought in before renovations or new construction to consider the design of the new apartments. The result has been larger internal spaces, more robust materials, higher-quality flooring and external face-brick construction and balconies. Experts have commented that JHC developments are equal to what is being provided in more expensive locations in Johannesburg‘s northern suburbs.


JHC has developed a number of initiatives to reduce energy consumption benefiting both tenants and the environment.  These include geyser blankets to improve geyser insulation; ripple relay devices which turn off the geyser driving peak city demand periods thereby saving tenants peak electricity rates; and load-shedding devices which turn off the geyser when the stove is turned on.  An important pilot project is the solar energy system has been installed at Smitshof which has 118 apartments.  This is a first for the residential housing sector. The solar system provides all the energy that is required to heat the water which is stored in insulated tanks. Other measures that are used in JHC buildings include the use of energy-efficient light bulbs and day-night sensors which turn off various lights in the day time.


Breaking the financial red line in the inner city must count as one of JHC’s major contributions to the turn around of Johannesburg‘s inner city.  In mid-2000 JHC made a significant breakthrough in securing an R11 million loan from ABSA on the back of a commitment from New York bankers, JP Morgan Chase, to subsidise the interest on a formal South African bank loan. USAid also offered a guarantee for the commercial loan. This was the first commercial loan granted to a social housing organisation in South Africa since the banking sector had redlined the CBD in the 90’s.  This was followed in 2003 by both debt and equity investments by commercial institutions into the pioneering Brickfields development in Newtown. Between them Absa Bank, the National Housing Finance Corporation, the Gauteng Partnership Fund, Anglo American Corporation, AngloGold Ashanti and ApexHi, as well as the Gauteng Department of Housing, invested a total of R121 million into the largest social housing complex in the country.


The JHC has always worked on a market-based demand policy. Extensive research is done before acquisitions of buildings are made. The JHC has always insisted that building costs are covered by rentals. Buildings have never been subsidised. Each unit pays an administration fee which covers the JHC overhead costs. Systems are put into each building whereby regular maintenance, inspections and reports are done. These lead to financial sustainability. Within 10 years, JHC has grown to a business that generates rental income of R55 million in June 2006 and closed the year with a net operating income of R18,9 million. Net reserves over the period have grown to R28,2 million.  JHC’s assets have grown from R1,5 million to R262 million over its eleven year existence.



The JHC has received numerous awards for its projects.

* 1998  Most Innovative Inner City Project awarded by the Gauteng Department of Housing and Land Affairs.

* 2000 Best Project in a Best Construction Practice Workshop hosted by the Social Housing Foundation: Carr Gardens

* South African Institute of Architects ‘Architects Project Award’ for urban design: Elangeni.

* Top Twenty Award in Business Day’s Unlisted Company of the Year Awards.

* Gauteng Housing Developer of the Year award by the Gauteng Department of Housing and Land Affairs.

* 2003   Concrete Manufacturers’ Association Award for the best concrete and roof tiles- Tribunal Gardens.

* 2004  South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) Best Social Development Award: Tribunal Gardens

* 2005   South African Property Owners’ Association Social Environment Category for excellence in property development: Smitshof

* 2006   UN Habitat Award for innovative and sustainable housing solutions


For more information please contact:


Lindi Malinga

Cell: 082 886 8193

Tel: (011) 241-6924


Please find background information about the JHC attached with this e-mail.


E-mail requests can be directed to


Juanita Prinsloo
Corporate Affairs Officer
Johannesburg Housing Company
Direct             : +27 11 241-6924
Fax                  : +27 11 836-0469
E-mail             :
Website         :