Our former President Thabo Mbeki once said: “Gloom and despondency have never defeated adversity”.
Trying times need courage and resilience. Our strength as a people is not tested during the best of times. We live in a society where, among many other challenges, our future leaders are expected to live and study under inconducive conditions. It is not a secret that there is a chronic shortage of affordable, accessible, safe, and quality student accommodation nationwide and this is something we must acknowledge.
The University of Johannesburg has a total of 51,920 students and yet only 6,680 can be accommodated in the university-owned and managed residences. The demand for off-campus accommodation far exceeds the current supply.
But we are here, this morning, because Mr. Tshepo Lekgau and Ms. Ellaine Khutsiso Phasha demonstrated vision, patience, and passion to see this project through – and help address this challenge. During our Stakeholder Forum held last month, we heard of some of the challenges that developers all go through along the way to delivering projects such as this beautiful student accommodation, Winchester Heights. You have demonstrated the courage and resilience I mentioned earlier.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Gauteng Partnership Fund (GPF) is an implementing agency of the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements, and it is focused on contributing towards the spatial transformation in our province.
The vision of the GPF is to be a partner of choice in catalysing the funding and development of integrated and sustainable human settlements in Gauteng. Amongst other core functions derived from the GPF mandate, Winchester Heights speaks to the direct fulfilment of the GPF’s function to provide loans to private sector developers for the development of affordable rental, student accommodation, and social housing projects.
The Student Accommodation Fund, which is one of the products offered by the GPF, enhances the debt-to-equity ratio for companies in projects that aim to provide affordable and good quality of living to the students. There is a growing interest by the private sector to provide affordable student accommodation in Gauteng rather than the traditional affordable rental accommodation.
This is supported by, among others, government initiatives in making land available to the private sector for the purpose of student accommodation developments. This 56-unit project, which provides 224 beds, is one of several GPF approved and funded student accommodation developments to open its doors at the beginning of 2022.
We are very, very proud to see the work and resources ploughed into Winchester Heights now bearing fruits. That level of excellence should be applauded and should set an example for others to follow.
We are also excited because this is yet another success story in our quest to see and support the participation of emerging black property developers in the affordable housing market. Another student accommodation project in Naturena, south of Johannesburg, known as The Opal, was completed ahead of schedule and opened its doors in time for the 2022 academic year.
These projects are an example of what can be achieved when the different spheres of government, as well as implementation agencies such as the GPF, work together with the private sector and civil society to provide affordable housing solutions to our communities.
We share the vision of the MEC, Mr Lebogang Maile, and the Gauteng provincial government that it is possible to transform the province spatially through the delivery of sustainable and integrated human settlements.
I want to reiterate that the GPF Board of Trustees, Management and Staff are all committed to intensifying our efforts in becoming the partner of choice in implementing similar developments across the Gauteng province.
In conclusion, I wish to congratulate Mr. Tshepo Lekgau and Ms. Ellaine Khutsiso Phasha and their team, as well as all our partners, on the success of this project, which is an excellent example of what is possible.
I would like to thank our shareholder, MEC Maile and the GDHS, for the trust and the support we are continuously shown.