Monthly Archives: November 2014

WHOA! I wasn’t quite ready….

where gogos go ....

where gogos go ….

For the frail care wing, that is. But here I am in Cape Town, staying at the Berghof Retirement Village ( ), one of NASHO member Communicare’s projects. AND my next-door neighbour in 202 really is Mrs Boucher!!!

Apart from this episode from the Twilight Zone, all is well here in Cape Town. CT reminds me of Banff, but way bigger and hipper. Everywhere you look, there’s a mountain and it’s nice that rich and poor share the same view.

view from my room

view from my room

Joburg or Cape Town?

I came down at Malcolm’s suggestion (well, In fairness he was also responding to my chronic whining about none of my work taking me to Cape Town). He and I were scheduled to call in to the ONPHA conference Saturday afternoon and he didn’t really want to leave home just for that. So he organized a couple of SHI visits for me, and that worked out great!

Malcolm and his lovely wife Emmanuelle sold their house down the road and bought a loft in the heart of town, across from a great coffee spot! I totally understand why he’d rather be here.

cool crib

cool crib

queen st west, 1974?

queen st west, 1974?







But apparently, Joburg is named #2 Good City, and I’m going to support that contention for now. Check it out: (Thanx Babs!)

Joel’s baby

On Friday, I spent the day with Joel Mukunqwana and some of his great folks at Communicare, the oldest social housing institution in South Africa. They started 80 years ago, mainly as a charity providing housing and supports for the elderly, depending on private donations (including land and buildings!).

When the government put out a social housing program, Communicare decided to hop on board. So now they have a portfolio of over 3,000 units and have used their existing sites to intensity and build family units into their mix. This has caused some consternation in their long-standing tenant base. Ottawa providers who are familiar with the “age mixed” OCH building challenges will understand this.

So Communicare is struggling to move away from being a kind of care provider to more of a “regular” SHI. They are slowly decreasing their home/medical support staff component and going more towards a community development model.

But because the current social housing funding model is not sustainable, they are also very keenly looking at some income mixing or other ways to change the revenue base.

Frail gogo, Jerome, Wasima, Waleed, Joel

Frail gogo, Jerome, Wasima, Waleed, Joel







those seniors at Dromadaris know how to garden!

those seniors at Dromadaris know how to garden!

jackie, cb, andrew -dromadaris community space

jackie, cb, andrew @ dromadaris community space

When we arrived at Bothasig, a tenant was busy weeding in the vegetable garden. As I was chatting with staff about converting a rubbish bin building into a meeting room for tenant events, it came to me that they needed a gardening shed too. I put this to the gardener and here he is, making a case to Jerome, who then encouraged him to bring a plan. A few minutes later, as we were walking elsewhere on site, the gardener arrived, holding a glossy magazine to show Jerome what he meant. I gave him a big “thumbs up”!

Bothasig Gardens: corn, chard, onions, celery, etc....

Bothasig Gardens: corn, chard, onions, celery, etc….

And we need a water tap, some shelves, rakes....

“And we need a water tap, some shelves, rakes….”

Some technical glitches having been resolved,

Malcolm and I managed to speak to folks in Ottawa who were attending the ONPHA conference. Did I say I might bore you with a Power Point someday? Well, here is my take on how social housing can have impact on breaking up the spatial inequalities left by apartheid. Here’s hoping the technology works….

ONPHA Rooftops PPT Nov 2014

Like Lebreton Flats and Lowertown, but worse 

District 6, where Malcolm lives now, used to be a very poor but vibrant community of people of all colours, religions and origins. And then they were all forcibly removed in order to declare their neighbourhood a “whites only” area. Pushed out into the Cape Flats, housed in shoddily built, leaking and overcrowded buildings, separated from their street “family”, their livelihood and ability to easily get to school or work, District 6 folks lost their identity.

And Cape Flats is now the area with the highest crime rate, topping the murder charts in South Africa every year.

District 6 back then

District 6 back then

Cape Flats now

Cape Flats now

This one’s for Dennis and Debbie:

On November 5 and 6, the RESHI (my guys) came to Joburg to hold a 2-day workshop on all aspects of building and managing social housing. We also invited two WESHIs (Well established SHIs) to join us.

Renier Erasmus, the CEO of Madulammoho Housing, a very innovative and capable SHI with lots of development experience was talking about moving tenants in to new projects and he said:
“We always schedule the move in date 3 months after the contractor’s estimated time. We want all the deficiencies corrected before tenants move in!”
I had to smile….

It was a great workshop, everyone learned a lot (even the WESHIs).

Tooting our own horn!

Tooting our own horn!

Ever wonder what happens to

Old VW vans?  Saw one the other day at the Joburg Photo Umbrella event in Newtown.

After following the Grateful Dead for 10 years.....

After following the Grateful Dead for 10 years…..

That’s all for now folks….




On my way to work….

Coca Cola, Allah, Jacaranda

Coca Cola, Allah, Jacaranda

Summer arrived, and now the city is a purple splendour.  The picture above is part of my daily drive to work. My office is near the Coca Cola ad building.

Johannesburg has an amazing tree canopy, like driving through parts of the Glebe and Rockliffe, even in poorer neighbourhoods. I’m guessing they haven’t been hit by any bad tree critters (ash borers, pine beetles, etc). And jacarandas abound, so right now there is a splash of bright purple everywhere you look!

And on the 2 minute walk home from my parking spot this week, I’m greeted by these:DSC01449 DSC01450 DSC01389


And the marathon continues…

Well, it’s not over yet for the Pistorius trial junkies! Apparently the Crown is filing an appeal to the original verdict.  It’s a tricky subject to raise in various venues here. Hard for me to tell how much of this is due to the background of race, so I’m being cautious  about comments. People seem to feel sorry for him at the same time as they think he got off easy, so go figure!

Another Canuck visits

Last week, Steve Pomeroy (Ottawa housing research wonk) was here as a Rooftops consultant working on Long term Financing (LTF) of the Social Housing Sector for NASHO. Apart from having lovely dinners at the Leopard, the Lucky Bean and Ant (my neighbourhood haunts) with him, I also attended a very interesting 2-day workshop on LTF.

There were SHIs, government funders and policy makers. All agreed that the current funding model does not deliver long-term sustainable housing in good locations (hmmm… anyone having a déja vu?). The funding here is all capital grants, leaving most SHIs to carry mortgages (called “bonds”) of about 30% of the the costs. But that does not reach down enough to house poor people and keep the buildings well maintained over time.  So the idea of putting some market rent units into the mix to cross-subsidize was brought up and there was lots of nodding.

But we all know that governments agree to income mixing in principle and then recoil when they have to pay something into it…

Here’s the thing. The government is ready to pour money at the housing problem right now, and who knows when that will end, as surely it will. So, the SH sector doesn’t currently have the capacity to deliver big numbers, but who likes to give up wads of cash when they’re available (hmmmm… anyone having a déja vu?).

Private sector says “we can do that” – but we know they can’t/won’t provide long term affordability. Government is being lured by their siren call (fast, cheap, efficient), so it’s a problem for the SH sector.

Steve checking his IPhone for weather in Cape Town

Steve checking his IPhone for weather in Cape Town

No need to call the Sheriff, just get the Red Ants

Evictions are a constant problem here. For obvious reasons people have squatted on land and erected shacks and more permanent structures over many years. Depending on where you live and forces of the market and politics, you may wake up to find a bulldozer at your door, or just a bunch of poor black guys in red overalls and a white guy with a shotgun.

knock knock, who's there?

knock knock, who’s there?

I don’t want to be entirely glib about this, it’s a hard nut to crack for everyone. The housing activists are getting lots of attention every time there is an eviction. But the owners of the land, as well as the municipal officials and politicians all have something to say too. And they don’t always agree with each other. Where should people live when they don’t own land, have no jobs and need to be near some kind of opportunity to earn something each day to feed their family?

It’s illegal for municipalities to render people homeless without providing alternate accommodation (and there is much debate about exactly what that is/means). So the whole problem is fraught with complications for everyone involved. It’s a mess, and here’s more on that if you’re interested:

Ottawa Heritage, take note!

Clegg House, CBD

These folks are not kidding. They target abandoned heritage buildings, sneak into them at night and then make them visible by pouring pink paint all over. Clegg House (below) is a building I often drive by on my way to work.


The paint is apparently water soluble, but since it hasn’t really rained yet since I’ve been here, it looks the same now as back in May… Here is the poem from their website:

this is an urban experiment.
it is a questioning of what the city is, what it has been, and what it will be.
it is a re-framing of buildings that have been forgotten. they re-appear before us through pink.
it is a re-invention of space. a celebration of the unapologetic.
it’s a new story that needs to be written.
a love letter from our creatives to our land owners, our chief executives, our politicians.
we look at buildings that have been left behind by time and we caress their walls with our paint brushes.
we tickle them in hopes that they will tickle her.
she who walks to work in the morning her heels clinking and clanking.
we play with them in hopes they they will play with him.
he who sits around in the afternoon after waiting long hours in the unemployment line.
we whisper out their windows in hopes that they will whisper in their ears.
whisper to them: messages of hope instead of fear.
we know well that safety thrives in bright pink and danger dwells in muddy browns and faded greys.
hot pink laughs.
dark brown frowns.
hot pink dances.
grey merely moves.
together, we dress fear in pink in hopes that she will smile a little and join us in reinventing much.


That’s all for now folks!