Areas and Places

KZN offers opportunities through repurposing commercial property into multi-use

Sershin Moodley, Trust for Urban Housing Finance (TUHF) Regional Manager for KZN and the Free State.
Sershin Moodley, Trust for Urban Housing Finance (TUHF) Regional Manager for KZN and the Free State.

KwaZulu Natal’s property market has enjoyed unparalleled growth over the past three years, outperforming other provinces as an investment destination.

Sershin Moodley, Trust for Urban Housing Finance (TUHF) Regional Manager for KZN and the Free State says that KwaZulu Natal is offering savvy investors significant opportunities with the repurposing of commercial property into multi-use developments.

There are three major trends that I believe have the potential to significantly change the positioning of KwaZulu Natal and to see the province likely experience a surge in investment” he says.

Firstly, micro-units are becoming more popular as people are downsizing as a direct result of the economic impact of the pandemic. Secondly, many are looking for more communal living areas with their families instead of staying at the outskirts of the city. And finally, there is a short supply of quality student residential offerings in and around Durban. With the city becoming a hotspot for tertiary education, there will be a growing need to house out-of-towners around the universities.”

Urbanisation drive

Tying these three trends together is the fact that the urbanisation of the CBD is expanding into other areas beyond Durban property. This, according to Moodley, means people are becoming more open to the potential living, working, and playing in a centralised area.

Even though some investors are cautious about the commercial property industry in the CBD due to subdued performance in recent years, it is essential to take a long-term view of the opportunities. Many large, listed organisations and investors who own properties in the CBD are either looking to sell or transform their building stock into residential or mixed-use developments.”

Entrepreneurs can capitalise on the new normal trends around remote working spurred on by the pandemic. For instance, companies in the CBD are considering sub-letting the large office space no longer required given how many employees are working from home.

This opens the potential to convert these old office buildings into residential or mixed-use units. These commercial buildings have been built with large-scale occupancy in mind. Looking beyond possible first impressions based on the façade and physical appearance – such buildings can have the capacity to house up to 400 people, while adhering to safety regulation such as having fire escapes in place and adequate plumbing able to deal with this number. The large corporate buildings have had this in place since they were built so it presents a soft landing for investors looking to convert these into residential properties,” he says.

All-inclusive living

Furthermore, there is potential to take these properties and make them accessible to a lower income earning individuals and families and cater for a broader range of customers.

It is about applying the work, life, play concept to be more inclusive to those that might traditionally have had difficulties in affording renting mixed-use properties. By expanding the base, it also creates more opportunities for local SMEs to be set up to create a self-sustaining ecosystem,” adds Moodley.

He indicates that KZN has an incredible amount to offer both from lifestyle living and business investment opportunities. It is an important geographic hub for the country, while in a post-Covid-19 landscape people will increasingly migrate to the coastal towns and cities to benefit from the quality of balanced lifestyle on offer, as concurred by transfer based data released by Lightstone in September 2020.

In other coastal areas, cost of living may not be as accessible while weather fluctuations are quite extreme when compared to the affordability and year-long reliable climate of Durban. And when it comes to matching salary levels from other, traditionally wealthier parts of the country, Durban has grown in the past five years to come within 5% of what people earn in Johannesburg, for example,” says Moodley.

Companies in KZN are no longer afraid to pay for talent. Durban has already become one of the largest call centre hubs in the southern hemisphere. Furthermore, many specialist physicians are moving to the coastal towns and cities, with other professional people choosing to live at the coast and commute to Johannesburg for example.

It comes down to the quality of life and the opportunities provided through a more innovative mixed-use property environment. With the repo rate being the lowest since the system was introduced in 1998 and the ability to find the right project at the right price, KZN will start attracting significant investor interest in the coming months,” he concludes.