The City of Johannesburg has set aside R270-million over the next three years to develop bulk infrastructure and provide housing in the Greater Kliptown area in Soweto.

Between March and November 2015, more than 600 families will become the beneficiaries of RDP houses in the area, says Region D Director Thulani Nkosi.

“A contractor is currently on site in Klipspruit Extension 6 and is scheduled to complete 111 RDP houses by March. Two contractors have already been selected to start work in Extension 11 for the provision of high-density housing.

“After the City has finalised the establishment of bulk infrastructure, such as roads and storm water drains, the two contractors will start work in earnest to build 555 single and double-storey houses in Extension 11,” Nkosi said.

The City will be advertising the turnkey tender for the construction of about 2 000 RDP houses in Klipspruit extension 7, with work scheduled to commence by April 2015.

Potential beneficiaries from extensions 6 and 7 have been reporting at the City’s Central Camp Offices in Diepkloof to have their personal details verified “so we can start the process of applying for housing subsidies for them and allocate them the houses”, said Nkosi.

Kliptown is Soweto’s oldest residential area. It was established in 1891 on a farm called Klipspruit, named after the nearby Klipspruit (rocky stream). By 1903, it had already developed into an informal settlement. Today it is largely made up of RDP and subsidised housing settlements.

It is in the same area where the Freedom Charter was adopted on 26 June 1955. On that day, more than 3 000 representatives of resistance organisations from around the country gathered to ratify the Charter.

The Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication, the site of the adoption of the Charter, is one of Soweto’s major tourist attractions, and will undergo a multi-million rand upgrade ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Charter on 26 June this year. The upgrade will be spearheaded by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA).

Johannesburg Member of the Mayoral Committee for Housing Dan Bovu says the City has mobilised funding and resources for the development and rejuvenation of Greater Kliptown as part of its wider poverty alleviation strategy.

“When building commences in Extension 11, about 200 people from the local communities will be employed. We hope the residents will use the newly acquired skills to land permanent jobs in the construction industry in the future,” Bovu said.

“It is also worth noting that housing is one of people’s fundamental rights and, as a way of addressing it, the City is in the process of creating a high-density development for Greater Kliptown which, on completion, will boast RDP and affordable rental housing units for hundreds of our residents.”

One of the main challenges the City faces, however, is lack of land. Nkosi says the problem is compounded by the fact that there are at present 14 informal settlements in the Greater Kliptown area.

“As a way of working around the challenge, vacant land will be developed first and allocated to residents occupying land that will be developed next. This will assist in making land available for development.”