BJALA'S APPROACH TO HOUSING
Bjala approaches housing challenges in South Africa by developing innovative low-income and affordable housing that is then sold on to professional management entities. This forms part of the process of citizenship building unique to Bjala. Bjala aims to develop relevant and accessible housing solutions that include programming the ‘urban hardware’ seamlessly with the “Urban-Software” or urban program, to result in a healthy urban living environment.
HOUSING CASE STUDY: BJALA SQUARE
With the historic degeneration forces experienced by Johannesburg’s city centre, much of the previously industrial fabric of Jeppestown has experienced an exodus of business leaving large abandoned and poorly attended to buildings. Slum conditions and the extortion of rent from residents is not uncommon in Jeppestown. A serious negative affect to the social glue that holds the community together. In many cases buildings are very poorly serviced - In one community participation session Bjala and its partners heard how up to 300 people share one toilet and minimal water points in a building nearby. Individual space can be divided by often dangerous makeshift materials. Living conditions in these buildings are some of the poorest imaginable and dangerous.
Bjala Square has four stories for residential living as well as an additional three housing community projects and parking. Bjala has completed 151 affordable housing units with spacious, bright units, laminated flooring, porcelain tiles, granite kitchen counters and bathroom vanities.
The architectural plan features a sustainable use of energy in the units and offers space that enables socially positive human habitation through the use of natural light and warm colours.
Despite quality finishes and spacious units being associated with a more affluent market, Bjala’s units are pitched for low-income earners, and Bjala has a policy of first prioritising tenants from the local area who earn below a certain threshold. Thereafter, tenants from outside the area who earn above the threshold are considered, if they are willing to give back to the community by running a community upliftment initiative in the area.
One such project, the Jeppestown Photoclub, is run by resident Rebecca Crook. The initiative seeks to amplify the voices of children through photographing and storytelling. They meet on a regular basis and develop their work related to photography for exhibition.