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Joburg’s rejuvenation ripens with scheme to transfer bad buildings

Published Apr 7, 2011

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In a bid to fast-track the rejuvenation of Johannesburg’s central business district (CBD), mayor Amos Masondo officially launched the Inner City Property Scheme (ICPS) yesterday.

The scheme will replace the Better Buildings Programme, which was established to reclaim decaying buildings in an effort to attract investment and encourage economic activity.

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“The ICPS is an important initiative by the City of Johannesburg, in partnership with the private sector, to address urban decay and accelerate the rejuvenation of the CBD.

“The state and appearance of a CBD is an important barometer to determine the ability of a city to attract and retain investment. It is also a reflection of the extent of the advancement of commerce and overall economic development.”

He said Johannesburg’s inner city had gradually been transformed in recent years from a grimy and unsafe place full of dilapidated buildings into one that attracted businesses and residents. He attributed this change largely to the Better Buildings Programme, which has been replaced by the ICPS after a review.

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Masondo said the Better Buildings Programme had only moderately been successful because of the lengthy expropriation process, the screening of participants and the requirements to provide transitional housing to people who were evicted.

The solution to this problem was the ICPS, developed by the city’s economic development department to transfer expropriated properties to the inner city property portfolio.

Masondo said the key objectives of the scheme were to restore legitimate tenancy and ownership of buildings in the inner city and ensure delivery of social and transitional housing.

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He said the scheme sought to eradicate slumlords as well as maintain law and order and improve revenue streams.

This would be done on a case by case basis through abandonment agreements with the property owners, sales in execution, expropriations, and the transfer of dilapidated buildings owned by the city.

Broad-based black economic empowerment (BEE) participants would hold the controlling shares in the portfolio., which held 30 buildings that would be refurbished.

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Each BEE investor had to invest R5 million in the rejuvenation programme, he said.

A panel of BEE service providers would be created and would be responsible for the rejuvenation of the buildings.

“This makes the Inner-City Property Scheme one of the most far-reaching broad-based black economic empowerment transactions yet introduced in South Africa – and definitely the biggest in the property field,” he said.

Masondo said the city would transfer properties as well as vacant pieces of land through a developmental lease with an option to buy.

Once the buildings were transferred they would be refurbished and brought in line with the building code of the city to turn them into viable and productive economic assets, he said.

Jason Ngobeni, the executive director for economic development, said the ICPS was geared to improve service delivery to the inner city.

Ngobeni said he was confident of the scheme’s success because it had addressed all the shortcomings of the Better Buildings Programme.

A transitional housing solution had been created to address the displacement of residents living in buildings that formed part of the inner city property portfolio, he said. - Business Report

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