Sunday, June 8, 2014
This last week I have been sponging up information, meeting with various SHIs (Social Housing Institutions), their regulators and funders. And there’s more reading for me over the weekend!
Shopkeepers, bus drivers and dudes trying to sell me their wares have at times called me “Mammy”. And I realize that I’ve only seen two other women with white hair. So I must be seen as a really, really old woman…
Friday, the cold came in from Cape Town and we woke up to zero degrees. Turned on the heat and put on a flannel nightie. I was sure I’d packed gloves, but apparently not. Went later in the day to the second hand/cat rescue store, but only found a couple of scarves, which is good too. Here again is an attempt at showing some of the “bounty hunters”.
how many kitties?
Very different cold than Ottawa cold. Extremely dry. Had to get emergency lip balm and I’ll be looking for similar stuff at the goop shop around the corner. Laundry dries in minutes flat, even overnight. And that’s why there are clotheslines everywhere, even just outside my hotel door! Makes me happy…
Monday I finally met some of my colleagues, notably the handsome John and the lovely Joan and spent a couple of days in the office. Our offices are at the front, 5th floor.
The lovely Joan
NASHO rents office space from the Johannesburg Housing Company (JHC), who bought this beautiful art deco building back when they were cheap(er). It’s in the old CBD part of town, which was abandoned during the 90’s, like lots of the downtown. There was a whole new BD built out far in the (Kanata North) area, called Sandton. So the head offices of Big Biz, the Stock Exchange, etc, moved out there and the downtown is now trying to reclaim some presence. Walking around during the day is very safe and there are cafés and banks and a Woolies (Woolworths, which here is all high-end stuff!) to buy yummy lunch and expensive groceries. But after 5 pm it’s like the Sparks Street Mall.
Also on Monday, I met with folks from JHC. In some cases, it was a re-union, since I had met with some of them two years ago. Their ED, Elize Stroebel arranged for a meeting at their office, one floor down from mine. Elize was joined by Aysha, their Finance Director and Lindy, who looks after their community development arm (a separate corporation that is set up as a charity and can receive donations). JHC is possibly the most nimble and envelope-pushing of all the SHIs. At 20 years old and almost 4,000 units, it calls itself a “Social Entrepreneur” and now does new development without gov’t assistance. They introduced some serious income mixing in order to achieve this, and now they are a bit vulnerable to accusations of not housing those most in need.
I had hopes that CCOC might have done an exchange with JHC a couple of years ago, and I still hope that might work. They are probably our mirror in S.A. Committed to “place making” and trying to influence the shape of the City.
After the meeting, Boyce (Portfolio Officer) and Sabelo (Prop. Mgmt Specialist) took me to a couple of JHC sites. One was Brickfields, which I had visited in 2012 and the other was Umndeni Gardens, a 350 unit development that had been built as social housing some years ago, and then “highjacked” by some of the tenants/thugs. The powers (not sure who did this) put the complex out to public auction and JHC was the winning bidder. It took them three years to get an eviction order to clear the buildings so they could re-furbish and re-let them. As one can imagine, evictions are very difficult to get (legally, I mean) because of the legacy of apartheid. Anyway, JHC is now filling up the second phase of 3 and started work on the last portion.
There is a prevalent (and reasonable) fear of “rent strikes” here, and SHIs are not immune. Since everyone was promised a house after the dismantling of apartheid, some folks like to interpret that as not needing to pay rent. Or can be easily convinced by thugs who then take over (highjack) the building for their own profit. Also complicated by the fact that the biggest housing program is in fact free ownership homes (Called RDPs and referred to as “give aways”). So JHC’s community development arm is working on a “Pay by the First” campaign and struggling with finding a legal way to give tenants incentives.
On Tuesday I visited with two groups I had met with in 2012 and it was a bit of déja vu. My first visit was with Josie Adler in Hillbrow, a very interesting downtown neighbourhood. Josie was the instigator and driving force behind Ekhaya, a community development organization reclaiming this fragile area. http://www.joburg.org.za/index.phpoption=com_content&id=2244&Itemid=168
Josie and her successor (oops,forgot name…)
I also met with Chris Lund from Madulamoho Housing, one of the Hillbrow SHIs that works mainly with street folks. They are also looking at doing some more income mixing and have even moved to setting up a satellite in Cape Town. Very strong organization, coming from the church-based sector.
Wednesday, almost free seniors’ bus day. On Wednesday, Malcolm went to Cape Town, so I was on my own and bravely said I would take the bus to work. In theory, this is an easy commute, taking the bus right around the corner and getting off about 4 blocks from work, at Ghandi Square, a major Metrobus stop in the CBD.
After waiting from 7:40 to 8:55 am for a bus to come, I gave up, went back home and asked staff to call me a taxi. Mike, my new best friend, arrived about 30 minutes later and took me to Ghandi Square. All told, I probably got to work at 10:30 or so. Undaunted, I decided to take the bus home. The lovely Joan and I went to the kiosk at noon, got a schedule and decided I should be at G.S. by 3:40 since the bus was scheduled for 3:55, with another one at 4:15 in case I missed the first. Well, neither came so a lovely young woman who lives in my neighb and works for OXFAM helped me choose another bus. Had a longer walk home, but it was ok.
The “almost free” comes from the bus driver asking me if I was an pensioner and then charging me R3.60 (36 cents CDN)!
So, for the next two days, I did a combo Mike/Metrobus to get to and from work. But pretty clear why you want a car if you’re here for any length of time.
Ghandi Square, 4pm
Thursday I met with the money guys. Social Housing here (like back home) is funded through capital dollars only. The amounts cover about 70% of the costs of building. This is a combination of national (federal) and provincial dollars. I met with 3 different bureaucracies, each of which has a role to play. One of them, the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) has an additional role of overseer, and there is a quite onerous and (to me) confusing accreditation program. The SHRA seemed interested in reviewing their m.o. and maybe looking at the Netherlands and Canadian experience through some kind of exchange. They even have regulations in their office bathroom:
It’s not all work and no play:
On my way home Friday, I stopped at the Standard Bank Art Gallery a few blocks from our offices and caught the last day of Mary Sibande’s show, “The Purple will Govern”. http://www.contemporaryand.com/blog/exhibition/mary-sibande-the-purple-shall-govern/ The title “is derived from graffiti that appeared around Cape Town in 1989, after police sprayed protestors participating in an anti-apartheid march with purple dye….”
Also listening to CBC podcasts and watching really crappy B-movies on my free dish TV.
It for now, more later.