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New shopping centres, townhouse complexes, tertiary institutions and industry balance the region’s challenges, from shack farming and traffic congestion to illegal scrap metal dealers.

Region C has a busy year ahead, with municipal elections and a struggle to bring the area out of the recession that has been affecting the global market for years.

 

Calie CoetzeeThe biggest challenge for Region C is eradicating poverty, says regional director Calie CoetzeeThe region consists of Roodepoort, Florida Park, Ruimsig, Cosmo City, Northriding, Bram Fischerville and Thulani, and is divided up into 12 wards. There are 350 000 residents living in an area covering 200 square kilometres.

Regional director Calie Coetzee says a high growth rate of 26 percent and development over the last 10 years have led to a boom in nodal shopping centres, access to medical facilities and tertiary education. Prior to the recession, the region had one of the top five residential growth rates in the country.

Townhouse complexes have sprung up fast and furiously, and Coetzee says, “I doubt you’ll see any more normal houses being built, because developers are only building these complexes.”

While this contributes to feeding the demand for housing, it has a knock-on effect of generating traffic congestion, problems with storm water drainage and a demand for access to services such as electricity and water.

“City Power has been overwhelmed with the demand for new connections, and the market is saturated so they can’t provide more, especially in the northwest of the region,” he says.

These are not the only problems to afflict the region, though. “There is the problem of extreme poverty, with a large portion of the population living in shacks in the 33 informal settlements.”

Shack farming
Shack farming is also a major challenge in these areas because of the size of the population. Landowners give people the right to build shacks, and then rent the shacks out to them. With the average shack being rented for R400 per month, it is a multi-billion rand enterprise.

“It is very hard to control, and you can’t just evict people because of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act,” he says. “It is a very lucrative business, about making money, and with syndicates controlling a lot of it.”

The Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens are a major attraction in Region CThe Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens are a major attraction in Region CLaw enforcement and the presence of illegal immigrants pose further difficulty in the wards. “The biggest law enforcement struggles involve scrap metal dealers and liquor outlets. We have a multi-disciplinary approach, where the South African Police Service, liquor board, Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department, Building Control and Home Affairs help, so we have managed to close down some illegal liquor outlets and scrap metal dealers,” he says.
 
There are pockets of illegal immigrants in the Florida and Roodepoort central business districts and in the informal settlements, which Coetzee says “puts a strain on resources and employment”. Like shack farming, though, it is hard to control.

Improvements
Despite the obstacles that the region faces, a number of developments and projects are taking place to improve Region C.

A large number of nodal shopping centres such as Retail Crossing in Little Falls, Featherbrooke in Ruimsig and Princess Crossing in Helderkruin have become positive features in the area. These shopping complexes are booming to the extent that “there have been many applications for more along Hendrik Potgieter Drive”.

Tertiary institutions play a large role in the region, and with Monash University in Ruimsig and a Unisa campus in Florida, the fierce demand for higher education can easily be met.
A strong medical component is a characteristic of the area, with hospitals, doctors and subsidiary concerns such as dentists, psychiatrists and psychologists readily available.

A housing project is also being rolled out, with Cosmo City as the flagship project. When it is complete, Cosmo City will comprise of mixed-housing and businesses. “There will be 15 000 housing units at the end of the project, and we have completed about 12 000 of these. With an average of four people per house, the population will be about 60 000 people in a totally integrated development.”

The 'migration region'
It has been viewed as a “migration region” as people have used the reasonably priced houses as a stepping stone into the domestic property market. “There is the dual attraction of employment and residence in the area and people from all walks of life can improve themselves here,” Coetzee says.

The Ruimsig Stadium was a World Cup training venue in 2010The Ruimsig Stadium was a World Cup training venue in 2010The most common industries in Region C include high-tech and manufacturing, with electronics, information technology, engineering and the sale and repair of motorcars being the most prominent.

“We were hopeful after the World Cup that the economy would take off, but with the total economic situation in South Africa and availability of services being what it is, I don’t think we’ll see any growth in the region this year,” he predicts.

With a low level of growth expected, Coetzee explains that the region will focus on monitoring and facilitating services, which is an important aspect of his job. “We don’t provide services, but we monitor and give feedback to entities that do. Urban management is our responsibility.”

His office will also be concentrating on the municipal elections coming up later this year. “It is a big part of our year, and we will be facilitating and monitoring the run-up to the voting.”

In addition, he will be focusing his attention on what he views as one of the most, if not the most, important job of a regional director: “To create a quality living and work environment for residents”.

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