Trust for Urban Housing Finance
The Trust for Urban Housing Finance has an ambitious aim: it wants to transform South Africa’s inner cities into becoming better places in which to live by offering short- and medium-term loans to property entrepreneurs who want to buy or improve residential rental buildings in urban spaces.
Established in 2003, the trust describes itself as a “dynamic finance company” that has rapidly evolved into a commercially viable entity. It is the brainchild of several leading South Africa-based development organisations, all of which are dedicated to providing effective, cost-efficient solutions to inner-city improvement challenges. The trust offers a raft of products and services, including bridging finance and mortgage and construction loans.
“We choose to work with people who run sustainable rental housing businesses and have the interests of urban regeneration at heart — people who know the inner city and are knowledgeable and proud of their projects,” says a statement about its lending policy on the trust’s website.
Most of the property owners and landlords who benefit from the trust’s activities come from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, which is why the trust offers expert advice on all aspects of running a successful estate business. This includes insight into property development, property management, zoning, national building compliance, taxation incentives, products and marketing.
The trust’s work has grassroots social impact because it uplifts communities and assists entrepreneurs in realising their dreams of owning a sustainable business, which, in turn, contributes to broader social upliftment. It is an urban renewal model that works and it proves that inner-city regeneration in South Africa is both viable and sustainable. The transformation of Johannesburg’s inner city is a vibrant example of what can be achieved.
In the past financial year the project was able to create 9?294 jobs and refurbished 4?647 housing units. In 2007, Futuregrowth Asset Management became the first institutional investment manager to provide a loan facility to the trust. The R50-million loan came at a time when many banks were tightening their lending criteria and, in some cases, completely stopped financing emerging property entrepreneurs.
According to Futuregrowth’s responsible investments specialist, Angelique Kalam, the partnership has proved to be a resounding success and helped to transform many potential investors into property entrepreneurs. “We assist entrepreneurs to realise their dreams of owning a sustainable business which contributes to the social upliftment, restoration and development of the community,” Kalam said. “We are proud of our long-standing partnership with the Trust for Urban Housing Finance. Jointly we contribute to a more sustainable society.”
The trust’s multilayered business model encompasses development for small, medium and micro enterprises, job creation, access to affordable rental housing and urban regeneration in inner cities. It is committed to black economic empowerment and gives preference to projects that are “properly researched and deemed to be sustainable business ventures”.
Choosing to react differently to traditional banks, the trust decided to examine the causes of market failure from a legal and institutional perspective and subsequently formulated workable strategies that are “still relevant today”. An example, said Kalam, was Jozi Housing, one of the trust’s beneficiaries. For the past eight years it had “converted dilapidated buildings in some of the most crime-ridden, corroded areas such as Hillbrow and Berea into attractive, high-quality, affordable rental housing”.
Until it joined forces with the trust the company was finding it difficult to raise capital, but thanks to the “regeneration partnership” Jozi has already acquired and refurbished 20 inner-city buildings in which residents “can live and work with dignity”.
The trust’s website is filled with such success stories. Many celebrate the courage of emerging entrepreneurs such as Simon Mkhize, one of a “new breed of investors” in inner-city property. With little experience and even less capital, Mkhize managed to buy and renovate five properties in an inner-city area that had been red-lined by most banks.
Recognising Mkhize’s “willingness to take a risk, determination, inner-city knowledge and hard work”, the trust gave him financial help and ongoing mentoring, helping him to overcome many problems along the way.
The judges praised the trust for going where banks had not been prepared to venture. They commended its broad approach to development and the partnership it had formed with Futuregrowth, which helped it to deliver.