Inner cities and districts

Anne Steffny. (Supplied)

Anne Steffny. (Supplied)

There are urban spaces throughout the country — some of which have deteriorated, others have stopped their decline, and still others of have managed to remain vibrant and well maintained. 

Where these areas have managed to halt a decline or not experience degradation, says Anne Steffny of Anne Steffny and Associates, is where a City Improvement District (CID) has been set up. 

CIDs, says the Johannesburg CID Forum, “are geographic areas in which the majority of property owners determine and agree to fund supplementary and complementary services to those normally provided by the Local Authority to maintain and manage the public environment at a superior level and thus maintain or increase their investment. 

The Local Authority continues to provide normal services to a pre-agreed level. Legislation allows for CIDs to raise an additional levy to be charged on all property within the defined geographical area. Income from this levy is directed back to the defined area to finance a wide range of activities.”

Supplementary services can include: safety and security patrol officers, pavement cleaning, litter collection, maintenance of public space, removal of illegal posters and more.

Johannesburg, says Steffny, has 19 CIDs and they all work in association with each other to develop best practice, share experience and learn how to work as neighbours on issues affecting them. 

For example, she says, Rosebank, Illovo and Sandton work together on traffic management, transport and other issues that collectively affect them as neighbouring districts. 

“CIDs have a long history in South Africa,” Steffny comments. “The Rosebank CID was set up in 1980. Once a CID is established we find areas tend to get better service from the city as the supplemental services provided, such as security, or street cleaners, make it easier for the city to do its work. 

A CID also provides a central point of contact and information back to the city on what services are needed.”

CIDs are showing great results in Johannesburg, for example, Steffny says, citing the progress in Braamfontein (where property owners partnered the city), New Doornfontein, which is “making huge progress” and Ghandi Square and Main Street, where the property owners have leased the land from the city for 45 years and committed to upgrading the infrastructure and maintaining it.

Economic stimulus

Informal traders pose a perpetual challenge in inner city districts. Steffny says: “Informal traders are an incredibly important part of our economy. The private sector is supportive of trading in public spaces, but it must be well managed. 

Trading areas across the city are different, she continues, some move around, some are in pedestrianised areas, others on pavements. 

Steffny notes that there is no quick fix approach and that a long-term strategy, which is developed in consultation with the traders, property owners and the City. 

“We want good by-laws that are all involved in developing and that are understood by everyone. We want a long-term plan that all parties can contribute to and understand that it won’t be perfect,” she says.

“We need people to be entrepreneurial and, if handled well, these traders could attract people to the area,” she notes.

The traders have realised they need to be part of the solution, she adds. Well-managed trading benefits them by giving them security and predictability. It benefits property owners because billions in investment will be wasted if residents in these buildings can’t leave their homes after 6pm, she comments. And it benefits the city.

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