Housing history vs property progress

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

While avoiding the pile of mounting work on my desk I found an interesting article that gave details of the most expensive property in Johannesburg. The results were not all that surprising. We’ve known for a long time that homes in Westcliff cost a fortune, but what was a revelation was the fact that only 52% of the homes are bonded.

That means 48% of homes in Johannesburg’s wealthiest suburb are paid for. There is a lot that we can take from these figures. For starters, if you are single and hoping to meet someone wealthy, Westcliff is a good bet. I would frequent local cafés, restaurants and health clubs in the hopes of meeting someone whose cheque-book could satiate Herculean spending sprees.

Something else that we can deduce is that the astronomical figures reflect property value only. The boats, giant flat screen televisions and luxury cars parked in the garage are not taken into account. This is good news for burglars, but bad news for credit agencies who wish that the Westcliff non-bonders had the need for credit cards instead of being flush with cash.

Westcliff and the surrounds are significant to Johannesburg, not just from a property perspective, but also from a historical point of view. When it comes to preserving history South Africa presents a number of challenges. Much of it is dark and filled with bloodshed. We also have a duty to redress the past. This means that historic buildings may be torn down to make way for new developments or that money is ring fenced for causes other than repairs of old landmarks.

According to the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation's website, many buildings of historical significance have been demolished, vandalised or left to rot. A number, including the Rissik Street Post Office, have been damaged by fire. The foundation hopes to protect the city’s heritage and one of the ways they aim to do this is by offering tours that showcase areas of historical significance.

One of the victories they achieved was the protection of monuments in both Westcliff and Parktown, though many casualties fell before this happened. The first home built in Parktown was lost to development. Hohenheim was constructed in 1892 and for a period was the residence of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, author of Jock Of The Bushveld. Hohenheim was replaced by the Johannesburg Hospital, illustrating the difficult task faced when city planners have to choose between development and preserving history.

Will Westcliff hold out to the forces of development and remain one of South Africa’s most valuable areas in terms of property? Probably. For the time being. It’s bad news for developers hoping to build a mall, but great news if you’re looking for someone who can afford your taste in luxury goods.

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