Joshco created this formal settlement in Kliptown, Soweto. Joshco was awarded the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour in Singapore. Joshco’s employees are proud of the award. (Images: Bongani Nkosi) MEDIA CONTACTS • Rory Gallocher CEO Joshco +27 11 406 7301 OR +27 11 406 7303 RELATED ARTICLES • New technologies for social housing • New homes for Soweto residents • Housing projects to curb SA slums • Facelift for Athlone Station siteBongani NkosiA dynamic social housing scheme in Johannesburg is helping transform run-down residences into affordable, quality living spaces for families in the city.The driving force behind this initiative is the Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco), which was launched six years ago as an agency of the City of Johannesburg. Its mandate is to reverse building decay in the city and provide more comfortable homes for residents.One of the buildings to be revamped is Vannin Court, a block of flats in Johannesburg’s densely populated Hillbrow district. As it stands now, it doesn’t look like a very hospitable place.Clothes hang from windows and a stench oozes from its damp external walls. Some windows are broken and covered with bits of old cardboard boxes.People live here, because rent is affordable.Someone who hasn’t walked the streets of Hillbrow recently could be forgiven for thinking that it’s all grime and gloom here, but things are changing.Europa House on Claim Street was once a decrepit hotel where illegal activities, including prostitution, took place. It was renovated in 2005 and is now a decent block of flats that offers affordable homes for rent.Not far from it is BG Alexander – a former nursing college that went through a patch of decay and even became infested with rats some years ago. It was refurbished at a cost of R10-million (US$1.5-million) and made fit for human accommodation in 2007. Apartments there can now be rented for as little as R600 ($88) per month.“Those of you who have been keeping a close watch on the development of Johannesburg in recent years would attest to the changes that this city has undergone,” said Ruby Mathang, head of the housing department at the City of Johannesburg.“The city, like most urban centres in the world, has experienced its gloomy days of decline, but it is now in an upward cycle and this has been the case for some 10 years or so.”Joburg to be ‘endearing home for all’Joshco has a “vision of turning Johannesburg into a distinctive metropole and an endearing home for all”, said Mathang.It’s leading the renovations at BG Alexander, Europa House and 17 other projects, which involve refurbishments and building homes from scratch.Joshco will begin work at Vannin Court soon. The agency said the building block will be “upgraded into good-quality, well-managed family apartments” that will be able to accommodate more than 50 families.Since 2004 the agency has spent about R760-million ($111-million) on creating 8 300 homes. Its developments include Pennyville in Soweto, a new location with 2 800 low-cost, medium-rise rental apartments.It also redeveloped former hostel Antea Village, in western Johannesburg, into 284 family-friendly units. Another residence that Joshco will give new life to is the Orlando Hostel in Soweto, where 102 apartments have already been completed.Hostels were originally designed to accommodate single men who worked in Johannesburg, not for their families as well. But, “Joshco has redeveloped hostels from their former state as male compounds to integrated family units,” said Mathang.Private companies such as City Property and Afhco are also playing a significant role in stamping out decay in Johannesburg. They have invested heavily in renovating residential and office blocks, especially in the city centre.UN award of recognitionJoshco’s efforts in bringing back Johannesburg’s spark and creating homes across many districts have earned it international recognition. It recently won the 2010 UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour, alongside five other municipal-run housing schemes from Singapore, China, Austria, Colombia and Morocco.The awards ceremony was held in Singapore on 4 October, World Habitat Day. Joshco’s employees got the chance to celebrate their win 10 days later at a function in Johannesburg.“We’re encouraged by the award. I truly cannot exaggerate the encouragement this award has on the Joshco team,” said CEO Rory Gallocher.UN-Habitat recognised the agency for having created habitable homes for more than 30 000 low-income residents, who pay their rates regularly. Joshco has received 84% of its total owed rent in the last year.Although it’s social scheme, it is very strict on payments. “We’ve done evictions in Kliptown and we have very a high rate of payment in Alexandra,” Mathang said.Joshco is the second South African housing project to have received the UN honour in as many years, after the Alexandra Redevelopment Project won it in 2009.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on July 12 told the assembly that his government felt hamstrung when it came to hiking the amount paid to beneficiaries of welfare schemes, a reason why he has been pressing for the special category status.Mr. Kumar also insisted that the State’s per capita income was “significantly lower” than the national average.“You talk about Haryana and Tamil Nadu. While comparing the amount paid (to beneficiaries of social welfare schemes) there, please also look at their per capita income vis–vis ours,” he said.“As a matter of fact, Bihar’s per capita income stands at less than Rs 40,000, which is significantly lower than the national average. This is the primary reason why we seek special status,” Mr. Kumar added, while responding to a calling attention motion introduced by a host of opposition leaders, including veteran Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MLA Abdul Bari Siddiqui. The motion had sought to draw the government’s attention towards the fact that the amount paid under welfare schemes in Bihar was far less than that doled out by the states of Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. For a pension scheme, the amount paid to beneficiaries in the state stood at ₹400 per month, while in Tamil Nadu and Telangana it was ₹1000, in Haryana it was ₹1800 and in Andhra Pradesh ₹2000, it said. Demand for special status for Bihar arose with the creation of Jharkhand in 2000, which deprived the state of its mineral-rich, relatively more industrialized and urbanized southern districts.It grew stronger in 2005 with ascendance to power of Mr. Kumar, who has often made the “special status’ issue a poll plank. After the 14th Finance Commission did away with the provision, the Chief Minister has, on many occasions, urged the Centre to make necessary amendments so that Bihar could get its due.“You (Siddiqui) have served as the state finance minister. I wish you had taken our financial situation into account before raising your question. You are comparing Bihar with states where the per capita income is higher than the national average,” Mr. Kumar said, turning towards the RJD leader.“Moreover, please do keep in mind that Bihar is the first state in the country to have introduced its own universal pension scheme – Mukhyamantri Vriddhajan Pension Yojana,” he added. Unlike other programmes, the pension scheme does not exclude those above the poverty line, he asserted.“All men and women, not drawing any other pension, shall be eligible to receive the benefit. This would put an annual burden of Rs 1800 crore and even though we need funds for development works, we are committed to implementing the scheme,” Mr. Kumar said. Talking to reporters outside the assembly, Mr. Siddiqui, however, appeared dissatisfied with the CM’s reply.“I am glad that the chief minister took seriously the issue raised by me. But his emphasis on the state’s financial situation leaves the basic question raised in our motion unanswered. The state’s budget this year stood at about Rs 2.05 lakh crore. This is a significant rise in comparison with what the size of budget was a few years ago,” he claimed.“There has not been a commensurate rise in the welfare benefits being extended to the vulnerable sections of the society. So, we had sought to know whether these matters were not high on the government’s list of priorities,” Mr. Siddiqui added.
Datia (MP), May 18 (PTI) Cyber Crime Branch of Bhopal police today arrested a 35-year-old sports teacher here for allegedly sending obscene messages to a girl.Aditya Babele, who works with a private school, prepared a fake Facebook profile, and sent obscene messages to a Bhopal-based girl from that profile, Civil Lines police station in-charge Ajay Bhargava said.The girl had lodged a complaint with the Cyber Crime Branch which arrested Babele today.”Further investigation is underway,” Bhargava added. PTI Cor ADU MAS KRK