News / Africa

S. Africa Struggles to Provide Housing to Black Middle Class

A boy cycles in front of a house in the upmarket Diepkloof extention in Soweto, South Africa, February 2006 file photo.
A boy cycles in front of a house in the upmarket Diepkloof extention in Soweto, South Africa, February 2006 file photo.
Solenn Honorine
South Africa’s black middle class is growing by leaps and bounds - with a new survey showing it now outspends the white middle class. This is having a profound impact on the historical black township of Soweto where prices of land and houses have soared in recent years due to growing demand for better housing. 

Protea Glen, an extension of Soweto, is designed to accommodate the needs of the black middle class. It has all the same features as the housing of choice of most well-off South-Africans:  you need a special permission to enter the premises; it is guarded 24/7 by a private security company; it is surrounded by a tall electric fence; and its common areas boast neat lawns. 

Not what you would expect to find in the township of Soweto - where many of Johannesburg’s poor black population lived in shacks and segregated from whites under apartheid.

But because it is Soweto - the prices are still lower than other housing estates in and around Johannesburg and currently within reach of middle income families. The 91 homes here cost a mere $35,000 apiece.  And they have been purpose built for people like Kabelo Mengy Mokoatle, a math teacher, who belongs to South Africa’s burgeoning black middle class.

“I was interested living in the complex because of the security. As I'm a single parent I want to make sure that my son is protected if I'm not around," said Mokoatle.

Upgrade in lifestyle

Themba Mtambo, 42, bought his 48 square meter house two years ago for his family of five.

He grew up so poor in rural KwaZulu Natal province that he had to wait until he was 12 years old for his parents to be able to buy him his first pair of shoes.

As a project manager in a water supply company, he says he can now afford an upgrade in his lifestyle.

“Where I bought first, you find there are a lot of lower class people or whatever. And then you find that, if you want to think of moving in the line of business, you don't find people who are at the same level as you are. So I moved here, and most of us, if not all, are professionals," he explained.

From a desolate place synonymous with violence, poverty and political unrest, Soweto is slowly becoming a real city of two million people shared by shack dwellers, white collar workers and even a few millionaires. The Protea Glen neighborhood, which lies on its outskirts, started being developed in the 1990s as an alternative for the middle class. Today, the average household here earns about $1,200 a month.

Supply and demand

Peter Kalabane, who mans the local office of its development agency, Township Realtors, says that it is the last area where land is still available in the sprawling township.

"The future is bright," he said. "Unfortunately there is no more land to continue in the next five years or so. It will be filled up in the next 3 years.”

Because of high demand coupled with land scarcity, home prices in Soweto are one of the fastest growing in the country. 

The financing issue

Johann Grobler, who developed the Protea Glen estate, says that providing affordable housing for the growing middle class, which cost between $20,000 and $50,000 dollars a unit, is a challenge.

"It is definitely very difficult to produce houses, decent houses, in this price range," said Grobler. "I think however that the biggest challenge we have has to do with getting finance for those people. In South Africa 49 percent of the people have a bad credit rating at the moment, which makes it very difficult for people to get loans."

But banks are not to blame, says Nicholas Nkosi, head of the affordable housing division in Standard Bank, which owns a third of the mortgage market in the country.

"It's a question of financial literacy, how do we get people to save? It's almost like a cultural shift that needs to happen in South Africa," he said.

"I don't think it's the banks that don't want to lend. In order for the banks to lend, there's got to be a house. So what it will take will be the availability of land, of well-priced land.”

People in the black middle class still own far less, per capita, than their white countrymen. They are too rich to qualify for government-subsidized housing, but too poor to afford living in the affluent suburbs at the other end of the city.
Accommodation for them remains a challenge.

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid