Saturday, June 27, 2009

Commune Policy - Comments by ERA property group

The newly published proposals for communes in the City of Johannesburg give cause for concern and could open the way to abuse if they are not properly policed.

So says Gerhard Kotzé, CEO of the ERA South Africa property group who points out that the proposals provide for an increase in the maximum number of individuals that may live in an approved commune, from the four allowed at present to 10.

The proposals are contained in the Draft Residential Commune Policy document published this month by the City of Johannesburg and are already being talked of as a blueprint for other metros.

The need for affordable, high-density student and worker accommodation is clear, says Kotzé. “On the other hand, though, there appears to be a growing number of illegal communes that often go hand-in-hand with higher crime rates, vehicle congestion, urban blight, poor sanitation, the activities of slum lords and other problems.

“Currently communal living in the City of Johannesburg is regulated by no less than 13 different town planning schemes, and different town planning processes are applied to achieve the same use in terms of communal living.

“And while Residential 1 zoning in most of those town planning schemes does allow for the erection of buildings that can be used for communal accommodation, this does not enable the use of a dwelling house for a commune as a primary right. So as the new proposals point out, the need to regulate communes further is apparent.”

What is more, the policy objective is to improve the decision-making process on which the commune applications are evaluated, assessed and finalised, in order to ensure adherence to the Housing Act and Rental Housing Act; to set standards for properties to be used as communes; to provide safe, affordable and varied housing in line with the National Building Regulations; and to provide management strategies for all premises used as communes.

“And there is nothing in that with which anyone could quibble. Nor do I have an issue with the fines that would be applied for failing to comply, amounting to 7,5% of the value of the property in question annually, pending court processes,” Kotzé says.

“As always, though, the devil is in the detail and my issue is with enforcement. While I certainly don’t advocate a kind of ‘commune police’, clearly there will have to be zero tolerance of any breaches of the new regulations or we could risk a situation where, as in the collection of municipal rates and taxes, there is allegedly no respect for legal process, thus inviting abuse.”

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Energy saving tips

There has been much debate about the increased electricity tariffs to be implemented from 1 July 2009, and although they have not been finalised it certainly looks like prices will rise between 20 to 35%, so we need to be prepared.

What can we do?

Tenants running an inefficient 2kW heater for 6 hours a night can dramatically increase your monthly electricity bill if you live in a flat, cottage or small townhouse. When buying a heater check to see how much electricity it consumes. By checking the instantaneous consumption on your prepaid meter you can easily see how many watts a heater is using and adjust your usage accordingly.

Landlords, by empowering your tenants to easily monitor their consumption with a prepaid meter, surprise "unbelievable" bills can be avoided.

Green tip of the month: Instead of boiling the kettle every time you drink a cup of tea, boil it once, fill a thermos flask and you will have hot water all day. Boiling a half filled kettle can cost about 10c each time. If you do this 6 times a day it will cost you R18.00 per month. If there is more that one family member this cost can multiply - so the answer is to either all drink tea at the same time, invest in a thermos flask.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thumbs up for commune policy proposal - Northcliff Melville Times

Thuli Malinga

Let and Stay chairman Caj van Zyl gave the new draft commune policy proposal a thumbs up.

This follows months of bickering by residents who initially objected to the policy presented by the City of Johannesburg.

According to van Zyl, high density development areas have been identified mostly on arterial routes around the university. These developments would entail 250 dwelling units per hectare and act as buffer zones.

Van zyl said, "In all likelihood, the number of tenants per property will relate to an equation where a single room needs to be a minimum size of 7sqm and a double room 14sqm"

"Certain community members have made arguments to cap the amount of students to 10 per property but this seems unfeasible as a blanket rule for all types of properties and a heavily debated topic", he said. Building rules to be adhered to would be:
  • One parking bay per tenant - can be relaxed depending on proximity to the BRT and University.
  • Caretaker or manager must reside on the property.
  • A3 signage on the outside of the property indicating the caretaker's telephone number.
  • A maximum of 4 people per bathroom.
  • A health permit will be required with bi-annual inspections.
  • The university should compile a handbook educating students about neighborhood relations and community living in the suburb

While this is in motion, student representatives asked the city council to step up police visibility in the affected areas.

However, van Zyl explained that certain unreasonable members have tried to unfairly correlate noice issues and conduct in 7th st Melville to that of students living in the broader area.

"Other community members are scared of the influx of first time workers to the area. This seems totally ubsurd considering normal economic principals.

"Professional landlords will only accommodate tenants that are able to pay the required rent and below market rent is not feasable when conducting an upmarket boarding house that needs to adhere to all the latest legislation, costs and limitations."

Nonetheless, van Zyl said his general feeling was that the policy was welcomed by the majority of community members and landlords.

Monday, June 8, 2009

CBD student accommodation popular


With record numbers of students entering universities this year, demand for student accommodation in central Johannesburg is starting to outstrip supply.

Inner city developer Aengus Lifestyle Properties (ALP) has seen the number of students renting its refurbished apartments in central Johannesburg grow from 142 last year to over 1,200 with this year's student intake."There are about a ten times oversubscription for available student rooms," says ALP CEO, Richard Rubin. "University residences are battling to cope with the increased demand."Last year about 22,000 more learners than in previous years passed Matric with university entrance, putting pressure on Wits University and the University of Johannesburg to accommodate more students than usual this year.

According to some estimates there are more than 7,000 students needing accommodation and just 700 available rooms on or near Johannesburg university campuses. Rubin says demand has also been driven by a massive influx of foreign and out-of-province students over the past few years as the city's universities are regarded as among the country's premier academic institutions.

Aengus Lifestyle Properties began upgrading a number of buildings in Braamfontein into upmarket student accommodation last year. "So far this year, we are oversubscribed in terms of tenant demand for these buildings," says Rubin.

Now the company is looking at developing the YMCA building on Rissik and Smit Streets into a mixed-use development incorporating student accommodation."Students are tired of staying in dormitory-style accommodation where they may have to share bathrooms and other amenities," says Rubin.

Rubin says the company has not yet offered the student units for sale to investors because of the current economic conditions in the property market. "But as interest rates continue to decline, but so investor sentiment is likely to shift back towards purchasing and we may look to actively marketing sectional title units for sale later in the year," he says.

Net rental returns on units in the suite of inner city properties managed by the group continue to hold at between 10% and 14%."We expect student accommodation to make up an increasing proportion of our property portfolio," says Rubin.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Studentville looms for suburbs

Joburg council to go ahead with controversial policy on communes

By Candice Bailey - Saturday Star

Up to 40 percent of the houses in Melville, Westdene, Auckland Park and and surrounding suburbs could become student homes if the City of Joburg's controversial student commune policy goes ahead.

The council is continuing with its Residential Commune Policy to regulate student communes, despite the outrage of residents who will be affected. This week, the council's suggestion of a 40 percent student home ratio in the areas was rejected by most residents, who are instead proposing a 20 percent allocation to students' houses.

The residents' argument, according to Melville Residents Association chairwoman Liza de Wet, is that there is already a high-density student accommodation area proposed and that this should be adequate. They argue that a family house has four people while student houses have up to six people per house.

The policy intends to address residents' complaints that their quality of life has been lost because of overcrowded and rowdy student houses. Constant complaints of noise, regular partying, traffic congestion and illegal parking are just some of the problems that residents face.

The policy is the council's answer to this, as it would regulate the number of students per property and specify acceptable social behaviour.But residents from Melville and surrounding areas were initially totally against the policy, saying it would not address the problems and would transform their areas into "studentvilles".

The council called for comment from locals at the end of March, before the draft was finalised. This week, the city had a follow-up meeting with locals, where they took into account residents' concerns for the last time before they thrash out the final details for the second version of the draft policy.If it is agreed on, commune owners would need to apply for permits through the department of environmental health to run communes.

The first version had sought a high-density student area in a 2km radius around the university.The amended one now proposes the high-density strip along Portland and Perth roads, High Street and Kingsway along the Bus Rapid Transit route. Parking requirements, however, would be more relaxed, with student communes where students could use buses as opposed to normal communes with working people.

Cindy Grobbelaar, a DA councillor for the area, described the meeting as positive, even though some residents were still against the idea. Developers are asking for 10 students per property to make it viable, while Grobbelaar is suggesting six. Residents at the meeting indicated that up to eight students would still be acceptable.

Caj van Zyl, a resident and investor in the area, who also owns a letting management agency, explained that from a business perspective, it was only viable to have 10 people in a house.His argument is that it's not fair to have a blanket rule on the number of tenants on all sizes of property."There should be minimum-size single room and double room, along with the other standards, like four people per bathroom and various sizes for communal areas."This would mean that bigger properties could accommodate more students.Van Zyl said he understood residents' concerns about noise pollution and slumlording, but the correct management could deal with that. His worry was that the council should make the policy easier for landlords to comply with.

De Wet was reluctant to comment on the policy, saying she wanted to see the second draft first."There are still some concerns. But there has been a positive shift and there is communication open."City spokesman Nthatise Modingoane said the finalised policy would be tabled with the council at the end of the month. The amended policy will be available on the city's website from next week as well as its regional offices.

The envisaged time for approval of the policy is August or September, after it has been considered by the relevant committees.

Published on the web by Star on June 5, 2009.
© Star 2009. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Johannesburg Commune Policy - Highlights of the 2 June 09 meeting

At the meeting of 2 June, the COJ presented their new draft commune policy proposal.

Highlights of the policy are;
  • Consent use application to conduct a boarding house.
  • In all likelihood the amount of tenants per property will relate to an equation where a single room needs to be a minimum size of 7sqm and a double room 14sqm - certain members have made arguments to cap the amount of students to 10 per property but this seems unfeasible as a blanket rule for all types of properties and a heavily debated topic.
  • Building rules to be adhered to.
  • 1 parking bay per tenant - can be relaxed depending on proximity to the BRT and University.
  • Caretaker or manager must reside on the property.
  • A3 signage on the outside of the property indicating caretaker tel number.
  • A maximum of 4 people per bathroom.
  • Health permit required with bi-annual inspections.
  • University to compile a handbook educating students about neighborhood relations and community living in the suburbs.

High density development areas have been identified - mostly found on the arterial routes around the university. High density would entail 250 dwelling units per hectare.

Student representatives have asked the council to step up police visibility in the affected areas.

Monday, June 1, 2009

BRT - Bus Rapid Transit System

1. What is BRT?

In order to deal with the increasing transport problems faced in Jo'burg today, the City is pleased to introduce the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit System.

The Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) is designed to provide a high quality and affordable transport system, which is fast and safe.

Rea Vaya BRT comprises a middle lane for large, high tech buses which will transport you comfortably and quickly around Johannesburg using specific designated routes, enclosed bus stations along the routes and a high tech control centre to ensure your Rea Vaya experience is a world class one.

2. Why BRT?

Bus Rapid Transit is a world class transport system being used in developing countries very similar to South Africa, to combat congestion and provide better public transport. By introducing this world class transport system Johannesburg, and all the other cities taking part such as Cape Town, Tshwane and the Nelson Mandela Metro will have many opportunities for development and will help bring in foreign investment to the country. BRT is a world class system which all South Africans can be proud of!

3. How does BRT work?

Buses will run in exclusive, dedicated lanes in the centre of existing roads. Smaller feeder buses will bring people from the outer areas to the stations on the trunk routes. This will extend Rea Vaya's network to areas far beyond the main trunk routes. Buses will be either 75- or 112 capacity vehicles, depending on passenger volumes and will operate from about 150 stations, positioned half a kilometre apart. They will run every three minutes in peak times and every 10 minutes in off-peak times and it will be possible to catch a bus from 5am to midnight.

Rea Vaya will not compete with other transport systems such as Metrorail or the Gautrain. This is an urban transport network that will feed into and complement existing networks to ensure the most effective movement of people across the city.