SA Affordable Housing March / April 2018 // Issue: 69 - Page 26

FEATURES One of the bad buildings in Doornfontein that is illegally occupied. Looking at ‘bad’ buildings: Part 1 Bad buildings (aka illegally occupied buildings) have come under scrutiny recently; while we face a critical housing backlog these buildings may help in tackling the housing deficit. By Ntsako Khosa | Photos by Hariwe Johnson T he City of Johannesburg (COJ) has a dedicated unit that deals specifically with property hijacking investigations, called the ‘property hijacking investigation unit’, it falls within Group Forensic and Investigation Service (GFIS) headed by previous Hawks head, Commissioner Shadrack Sibiya. Head of the property hijacking investigation unit, Victoria Rammala, says that the GFIS was created in 2016 by the executive mayor of the City of Johannesburg as part of fighting fraud and corruption. The unit is the integral part of Inner City Revitalisation Programme. Property hijacking is the Mayoral and the City’s Legacy Project to rehabilitate bad buildings through their release to the private sector for conversion into low- cost housing and small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMME) opportunities. “We have released about 13 properties since October last year, at present, the Mayor has asked for a further 20 buildings to be released,” Rammala says. According to the City, some of the released properties are currently being evaluated by prospective developers for redevelopment. 24 MARCH - APRIL 2018 AFFORDABLE SA HOUSING WHAT IS A ‘BAD’ BUILDING? Bad buildings are commonly defined as properties taken over by citizens from absentee owners, sometimes even from present owners. There are many dynamics involved in a building that is termed ‘bad’. Rammala says that these are buildings that are derelict and unsafe owing to neglect and non-compliance of by-laws and relevant legislation. “There are those buildings that we call hijacked buildings, we classify them as problem properties,” she says. Reasons behind the classification is that it covers the multitude of aspects that occur in such buildings, such as crime, non-payment of revenue, illegal connection of electricity and water, and so on. In 2014, it was reported that bad buildings cost the government an estimated R8-billion. Rammala explains that a building is only hijacked (and called such) once the tenants start paying rent (unbeknown to them) to someone who isn’t the rightful owner. “We have the hijacking component which has criminality component to it. There are syndicates involved, in certain instances within the City, where you find properties are