Breathing New Life into the Inner City

The Trust for Urban Housing Finance (TUHF) is a specialist inner-city commercial property financier that provides funding to small businesses. Using the Jobs Fund’s grant of R200 million, the TUHF is implementing a R1 billion funding structure to help new and existing entrepreneurs buy and construct about 200 residential buildings.

Solly Ramalamula, former policeman turned entrepreneur, is the proud owner of six TUHF-financed properties. With hard work, tenacity and the trust’s assistance, Ramalamula was able to purchase the first of his properties in 2010. Key to his success is his belief in the importance of safety, security and cleanliness.

In 2012, Ramalamula’s company, Take Shape, purchased Verena Court in the Johannesburg CBD using funding from the TUHF and his policeman’s pension. Painted in Take Shape’s signature blue and purple, Verena Court stands cheerfully on a corner. The neighbourhood is full of the sounds of children playing behind the secure fence and neighbours chatting, content in the knowledge that their home is well maintained and a safe place to live.

The property comprises several building configurations, including a block of flats with 18 one-and-a-half bedroom units, a house and two semi-detached buildings with 18 rooms in total. The block of flats also has a small supermarket on the ground floor and is conveniently close to Primrose Mall. Ramalamula employs an on-site caretaker and a cleaner to maintain the property, while the family-run supermarket provides employment to four people.

In addition to repainting Verena Court’s flats, Ramalamula made minor changes to uplift the building. The house and semi-detached buildings, however, needed major development. Ramalamula installed access control and a gate with a remote control for tenants parking on the property. He met with residents before beginning refurbishments to explain his vision for a clean and secure living environment. Although this meant a substantial increase in monthly rental fees, most of the tenants chose to stay on and appreciate the improvements.

As one resident said, "I like it here, it’s safe and clean."

The rooms are rented out from between R556 and R1 669.26 per month. The apartments are let, mainly to families for R3 672.38 per month, with an additional levy for parking.

Ramalamula’s success in managing his own properties has resulted in other property entrepreneurs asking for his advice. In addition to Take Shape Properties, which owns six properties, Ramalamula also runs Take Shape Property Management, which assists a number of property entrepreneurs, including some of the TUHF’s other clients, in managing their properties. The company website boasts 153 properties, 489 customers and two dedicated agents.

The TUHF project is promoting local economic development and contributing to urban regeneration. It provides access to finance for previously excluded entrepreneurs, creating permanent jobs in both the construction and management phases of developments and many more indirect jobs in the inner city.

The project has leveraged R1.17 billion against the R200 million guarantee, raising its matched funding ratio to 1:5.85.