The changing face of S.Africa’s townships


“What has been happening is the sort of normalisation of those former black township markets. They are still the lower end markets. The major metro township areas now estimate an average house price of 300,000 rand, [so] they still are the most affordable areas on average, and they still are to a large extent dormitory towns,” John Loos, household and property sector strategist at FNB Home Loans, told CNBC Africa.

“We’ve seen the retail going in, we’ve seen the infrastructure upgrades, the tarred roads coming, the electrification, so there are a lot of positive developments that have happened in the last 20 years on the way to normalising these areas and to making them basically just another suburb.”

Loos added that South Africa’s townships still remain fairly low income areas, and often far removed from the major business nodes and nearer to areas that had been designated to the white population in the past.


As a result, places of employment for township dwellers are often far away and transport costs are high.

(READ MORE: Addressing S.Africa’s housing backlog)

Charity Maphosa, principal of Mapfin real estates, however explained that the distance between home and work, as well as home and retail nodes, is rapidly changing in the townships.

“What we have seen recently is that we are having a lot of infrastructure coming in, and there are a lot of businesses getting into the townships. We’ve got a lot of malls being built, so people are no longer having to go into town to get whatever they want. I think that’s the most development we’ve come across now,” she said.

More development is also expected in these areas, according to Ben Pierre Malherbe, CEO of Calgro M3.

“If you look at the buffer zones between the city of Johannesburg and Soweto [township], for example, the development nodes are currently on the peripheral of the townships,” Malherbe explained.

“If you need to do 10,000 units, it’s much easier doing it in open vacant land than to try and upgrade existing townships. I think the upgrading of existing townships will still take a long time to get to where it needs to be.”

(WATCH VIDEO: Gauteng’s Township Enterprise Hubs initiative)

Malherbe added that South Africa’s housing policy, which was introduced in the 1990s, has since deteriorated and that the country requires a more relevant one.

“We need new policy [and] products to come into the market to cater for the market, in a way to help those who want to help themselves. I think the responsibility of the state [to] provide everyone with housing has got to come to an end at some stage,” said Malherbe.