Power outages, burst water pipes and sewage system failures have become all too commonplace in SA’s towns and cities, where the building and maintenance of infrastructure has often not been properly attended to over the past 20 years.
However, says Berry Everitt, there is a growing appreciation of the fact that poor municipal service delivery threatens not only the health of residents, but also property values and ultimately, the actual existence of the local authority concerned.
“No-one wants to live – or buy property – in a suburb, town or city that is dirty, unsafe or badly maintained, and that lack of demand soon leads to declining property values and a downward spiral of further urban decay as the council receives less and less rates income to enable it to rectify matters.”
And, he says, there has been some very encouraging news on this front in the past month. “Now at last Johannesburg, which is SA’s richest city, seems really ready to tackle the huge backlog of work on its service networks and to start building some new ones, and we very much hope this is an indicator of things to come in municipalities around the country.”
Delivering this year’s R47bn budget for the city recently, councillor Geoffrey Makhubo said City Power, for example, would get R7,3bn over the next three years to create new infrastructure and refurbish existing networks in several areas. Johannesburg Water got R6,4bn and at the same time, it was announced that the city would be taking over the provincial housing function within its borders, and had allocated R2,6bn over the next three years for upgrading of informal settlements, refurbishing hostels and developing mixed use precincts in the inner city.
At the very least, says Everitt, these moves should help Johannesburg regain some of the ground it has lost over the past few years as a choice of “home town” for SA’s top professionals and business executives – many of whom have settled their families elsewhere and become weekly business commuters to Johannesburg.
“This sort of ‘semigration’ is a big loss for any town or city, not only in terms of property rates (which generally account for at least 40% of the budget), but also in terms of the contribution that residents make to local economies and the job creation that results from their demand for goods and services and possibly, their establishment of new businesses.
“In short, all our cities and towns should be doing their utmost to retain their economically productive people as residents, if not property owners, and encouraging them to start new enterprises. Investing in infrastructure is a great way to do this – and give poorer residents a better life at the same time.”
With kind permission
©Property Junction 13/6/2014