Outgoing Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, was among a line-up of expert speakers in the property, urban planning and government sectors, assembled to tackle the question of how to unearth inner city potential – making investment more accessible and profitable.

It will take all parties involved to work together to overcome the challenges. Image credit: World Bank

It will take all parties involved to work together to overcome the challenges. Image credit: World Bank

The Inner City Property Conference, hosted annually by TUHF Limited, took place at the Sunnyside Hotel in Parktown on 30 October. The event welcomed a line-up of highly anticipated speakers, which included industry leaders, business and investor stakeholders as well as and government representatives.

A stellar cast of speakers

Mayor Herman Mashaba spoke broadly on political drivers for property growth and the accomplishments of the Johannesburg municipality when it comes to making affordable housing and student accommodation more widely available. “We see immense potential in Johannesburg’s inner city. We are working towards expropriating unused dilapidated factories and releasing them in a fair way to property investors to convert to safe and affordable accommodation units in the inner city, so addressing the dire demand for housing and regenerating the city.”

Hayley Ivins-Downes, Head of Sales at Lightstone Property, delivered a data-rich overview of the national inner city housing market, followed by Andile Zond, Regional Manager (KwaZulu-Natal) for the South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec), who spoke on the challenges and mitigating opportunities including authentic stakeholder engagement and proactivity when it comes to construction site-disruption in the South African construction industry.

Ralph Mathekga, took the audience on a deep dive into ancient history and the lessons modern, democratic metropoles can learn from the urban planning of ancient Greece, in a fascinating talk entitled ‘From City State to Nation State, and… Back to City State: The Political Economy of Local Democratisation’. Rethinking the inner city, he posits, requires reimagining the city as a democratically shared space through spatial planning and public participation.

Cities, people, plants

A greening panel on Practical Greening in the Inner City was made up of: Chilu Lombe, Partner at Solid Green Consulting South Africa; Grahame Cruickshanks – Market Development Executive at the Green Building Council of South Africa; and Nic Barnes – Chairman of JPOMA (Johannesburg Property Owners and Managers Association).

Barnes states: “Pre-billing utilities sees a 20–25% saving in consumption, which not only saves limited natural resources, but also operational time and management whilst increasing affordability for tenants.”

Key points from the discussion included measuring and monitoring energy consumption, as well as making data driven decisions in greening. If the Inner City Property Conference has one key takeaway, it is that while promising progress is being made, it will take all parties involved to work together to overcome the challenges applying international best practice but ensuring local relevance.