Cosmo City - A Mixed Success Story

Private Property South Africa

Situated just a little way past Kya Sands lies Cosmo City, a R3,5bn residential project which has met with both success and failure since ground was first broken at the end of 2004.

Cosmo City essentially came about in response to the homeless plight of the informal settlers of Zevenfontein and Riverbend who were illegally occupying owned land 25km’s North West of Johannesburg’s CBD. A Public-Private Partnership consequently arose between the City of Johannesburg, the Gauteng Province and private enterprise, the aim of which has been to provide a residential node which will cater to a broad spectrum of income earners and racial groups.

Basil Read Developments, lead partner of the private sector consortium – Codevco - was appointed the overall developer of Cosmo City in 2000. Codevco was also charged with managing the development on behalf of the City of Johannesburg.

Upon completion, Cosmo City should play host to approximately 12,500 residential properties set astride an area measuring 1 105 hectares. It is estimated that approximately 70 000 people will eventually call Cosmo City home. 5000 of the homes are RDP houses; 3000 have been set aside for middle income earners and are partially subsidised; 1000 have been made available on a rental basis and 3 300 are bonded houses.

The following amenities have been earmarked for Cosmo City:

• 12 schools

• 43 parks and recreational sites

• 40 church, clinic and crèche sites

• 30 commercial and retail sites

• 40 hectares of industrial parks

• 300 fenced ‘green’ hectares

The first residents took occupation in November 2005 and much progress has been made since then. Residents have access to running water and pre-paid electricity and solar water geysers have even been installed in some homes.

The streets are tarred and named (the main road leading into the development is called South Africa Road), more than half the homes have been built, six schools (one of which is a hotel school) have been constructed and various private/ public clinics and churches have opened their doors. City Parks is tasked with maintaining the parks and a taxi rank has been built. Residents associations have also been set up and, in line with the original vision of the development, residents from all income groups and racial groups have reportedly moved in.

Following in the footsteps of Cosmo City, Basil Read will be building similar townships at Matijhabeng near Welkom and another large development at Orange Farm. However, while Cosmo City is a far cry from the ghettos of the past and many positives have resulted from its construction, the development has not been without controversy. According to various reports, Cosmo City suffers from high crime levels thanks largely to the fact that illegal spazas, butcheries, taverns and shacks have taken root in and around the development. The lack of a resident police station has fuelled this scenario.

Moreover, in 2008, hundreds of residents marched in protest of the poor quality of the homes being built. Cracked walls and leaking ceilings were amongst the complaints filed.

In a nutshell, while progress has clearly been made in terms of South Africa’s housing issues, there are still challenges to be overcome and lessons to be learned if ever South Africa’s housing projects are to be dubbed true success stories.

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