Local integrated residential property developer Calgro M3’s unique approach to affordable housing has helped the City of Johannesburg (in partnership with Calgro M3 and the Standard Bank of South Africa) to win the Sustainable City and Human Settlements Award from the United Nations.
The award was announced at the United Nation’s 14th Annual Session of the Global Forum on Human Settlements held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, earlier this month.
This award recognises the South Hills development, located in the south of Johannesburg, and a joint venture between Calgro M3, Standard Bank and the City of Johannesburg, as a global green model community for its outstanding demonstration in promoting sustainable cities and human settlements, as well as the implementation of sustainable development goals.
The South Hills development will eventually consist of 5,845 residential opportunities, with approximately 1,410 already completed, and a further 1,600 being constructed and serviced. The development will comprise of a mix of fully-subsided homes, subsidised rental units, bonded units to the open market and free-stranding houses. South Hills is situated along a transport node, offering residents easy access to transport, job opportunities, and local amenities, including shops and hospitals. Over 90% of the units fall within the Financial Sector Charter definition of affordable housing.
Wikus Lategan, the CEO of Calgro M3, said he was exceptionally proud of the South Hills development being the recipient of this illustrious award, helping to position the City of Johannesburg as a leader in this arena:
“Whilst one cannot argue that the provision of affordable housing is a vital component of the social transformation and empowerment efforts of Government at both a national and local level across South Africa, we believe that affordable housing shouldn’t be just about providing shelter. It also has to enhance quality of life, provide opportunities and support dignity.”
It is this greater approach to the public good that gave rise to developments from the Calgro M3 stable such as South Hills. “For housing to be truly transformative for beneficiaries, affordable housing developments must offer individuals, families and communities at least some of the benefits that have previously been reserved for more affluent homeowners. We are also endeavoring to do as much as possible to make the running cost of the houses as affordable possible for residents, with less water and electricity use.”
Lategan added that Calgro M3 is aimed at helping meet the massive demand that exists in South Africa for quality, affordable housing that also focuses on superior urban design and an integrated lifestyle.
“The amount of open space or green areas we include in our developments makes all the difference – our aim is to build suburbs, not townships. Our focus is furthermore to provide a balance between passive and active open spaces, which all residents have access to.”
These active open spaces are introduced strategically throughout Calgro’s developments, specifically for recreational purposes. Active open spaces are professionally landscaped, and children’s play facilities are provided, creating spaces which the communities take ownership of and can be proud of. At South Hills, the total green space is 112 hectares. Another core aspect of Calgro’s approach is sustainability.
“One of the issues we’re addressing is energy-efficiency, not only for the building phase of our projects, but aimed at creating healthier living environments and reducing long-term energy costs for owners and tenants, by implementing gas, solar and solar farming, heat pumps, induction geyser, energy-saving lights and prepaid meters for water and electricity.”
Calgro M3 has already reduced the electricity requirement from 3.5 kVA to approximately 1.5 kVA per residential unit on some of its integrated developments. Lategan said that Calgro M3 takes its approach to sustainable developments very seriously: “We make a concerted effort to improve water conservation by means of rainwater and/or grey water harvesting and already provide energy-efficient homes.”
Calgro M3 has implemented a device called “Save a Flush” by Dry Planet SA (Pty) Ltd. Placed in a toilet, the device reduces water consumption per flush by one litre. Calculations, verified by an independent external party, shows that, based on the construction of a 40 m 2 residential unit and 11 flushes per day, the group will be rendered “water neutral” for each unit it develops within just 84 days of being occupied. Countrywide Calgro M3 has initiatives with the ability to recoup approximately 8,500 litres of water per unit that is used in the construction phase, both on and off-site, within three-months after completion of construction.
While energy- and water-efficient affordable housing is still in its infancy in the country, early indications are that the inclusion of these sustainability components in the design of low-cost houses could cut the utility costs of the people living in them by as much as 20% per year. And given that electricity and water prices are set to rise significantly in the coming years, these savings represent immense value, particularly for lower- and middle-income households.
According to Lategan, another imperative for transformative social housing is to provide owners and tenants with access to amenities and arguably more importantly, opportunities for creating wealth –in other words, access to metropolitan areas.
“If residents in developments report an enhanced quality of life, better safety, access to education and employment, reduced transport and utility costs and a greater sense of financial security due to property ownership and security of tenure, then we’ve achieved our vision of ‘building legacies and changing lives’ by delivering quality products throughout selected markets within the property sector and service of the highest standards.”
The environmental and social impact that drives Calgro M3 to build responsible integrated developments, supported by the City of Johannesburg, makes for a viable solution to the housing crises in the country.