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​​​City turns decayed building into liveable housing facility

Europa House, a 10-storey office block in the Johannesburg inner city that fell into disuse after being consumed by urban decay, has been transformed into a modern, liveable and affordable rental housing facility catering for the City’s low-income earners.
Bought and renovated by the Johannesburg Social Housing Company at a cost of R10 million, the 168-unit Plein Street property was officially handed over to its new tenants by Johannesburg Member of the Mayoral Committee for Housing Councillor Dan Bovu at an unveiling ceremony yesterday. The new tenants were beside themselves with joy at having been provided with a decent roof over their heads by the City.

“This is going to transform our lives,” said Belinda Ratanya, a single mother of five. Ratanya said her new home gave her and her children a better quality of life.

“We lived in an unsafe and filthy building where I was always stressed about my children’s safety. Our new home is going to give me such a peace of mind. We now have space to be a family. I’m closer to where my business is, so I now can spend more time with my children instead of travelling for over two hours to get to the inner city like I did before,” said Ratanya, who paid R2 500 a month rent in her former home.

Each floor at Europa House has universally accessible male and female bathrooms and a communal kitchen. Monthly rental ranges from R840 to R1 540 depending on the size of the rooms. The building also offers 24-hour security, with biometric access as well as a generator.

Joshco, the City's social housing company, offers affordable and secure homes for residents who earn between R3 500 and R7 500 a month who, as a result, do not qualify for RDP homes or mortgage bonds.

MMC Bovu said the handing over of Europa House represented a major stride towards the realisation of a key aspect of the Freedom Charter – provision of affordable housing.

“Piece by piece we are reclaiming Johannesburg and by doing so we are removing our citizens from living in squalor. The building's refurbishment is a great step in enhancing the image of the inner city as the surrounding buildings are dilapidated and contribute to urban decay. Joshco’s primary objective is to transform the lives of their tenants by providing quality accommodation that is sustainable and energy efficient,” said Cllr Bovu.

He appealed to tenants to take ownership of their new homes and pay their rent.

“These homes are yours but please be mindful that not paying your dues cripples our ability to provide sustainable accommodation,” the MMC said.

Joshco has over the past eight years taken over the management of several buildings in the inner city as part of the Better Buildings Programme.

It has over this period invested more than R1,8 billion in the provision of social housing, refurbishing or constructing a total of 8 749 units and making Johannesburg a more liveable and caring city. Joshco’s Property Manager, Cheryl Holmes, said the entity's was to increase the number of units to more than 13 600 by the end of June 2017.