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Development Opportunities in Joburg’s Nodal Review

The City of Johannesburg’s Nodal Review is redrawing Joburg’s property map, and presenting opportunities for savvy developers.

By Mark van Dijk

, |

Development Opportunities in Joburg’s Nodal Review

The City of Johannesburg’s Nodal Review is redrawing Joburg’s property map, and presenting opportunities for savvy developers.

By Mark van Dijk

, |

3 min read

On 28 February 2020, Johannesburg woke up to a new city map: one based on the Nodal Review, which had passed a council vote the day before. The Nodal Review, which aims to deliver on the City of Johannesburg’s Spatial Development Framework, could have far-reaching impacts for residents and property developers.

Addressing spatial inequality

As any out-of-towner would tell you, Joburg has a weird layout. The central areas tend to have large, spacious properties, while the high-density properties are located on the outskirts, away from the business hubs. As the City noted in a media statement: ‘The reality is that much high-density development has occurred far away from the city’s epicentre of economic activity and sophisticated and efficient infrastructure. Consequently, a dual development trajectory has characterised the City, with locations on the periphery of the City experiencing high-density development while locations closest to the economic centres of the City are characterised by low densities.’

The Nodal Review, the City said, seeks to reverse this trend by addressing spatial inequality. It’ll do this by opening up Johannesburg’s prime areas to high-density development, promoting – again, in the City’s words – ‘the idea of proximity to places of work and schools, easy access to public transport infrastructure and other services.’

Or, to put it another way, it’ll open Joburg’s wealthy suburbs to poor residents.

Redrawing the City map

While the Nodal Review continues to cause concern among pockets of residents, for others – and for the property developers who aim to serve those others – it opens a world of opportunity. These opportunities can be identified by looking at the various nodes, as shown on the City of Johannesburg’s online map.

Working from the inside outwards, the primary node is the Inner City Node, which provides for the highest mix and intensity of land uses, with heights of three storeys and up to a minimum of 100 dwelling units per hectare.

Then there are the metropolitan nodes (Sandton, Midrand, Rosebank and Roodepoort, plus Orlando and Jabulani), which promote a high mix of land uses at three to 20 storeys and a minimum density of 80 dwellings per hectare.

The Regional Nodes follow, serving as localised centres of commerce, with 80 dwellings per hectare and three- to 10-storey buildings.

The fourth, which the City describes as ‘the most transformative’, is the General Urban Zone in which buildings will have a mix of economic and residential uses. This node aims to maximise opportunities in well-located suburban areas, transforming them into urban areas over time. Here, you’re looking at three- to five-storey buildings with a density of at least 60 dwellings per hectare.

The fifth node is the Local Economic Development Zone, and it includes Zandspruit, parts of Cosmo City, Ivory Park, Soweto and Orange Farm, and Diepsloot – all areas that have historically had few economic opportunities. The Nodal Review aims to remedy that.

The suburban zone is a lower-density zone, with a mix of home offices, shops and local services. Here, buildings are limited to three storeys, as you have in current Residential 1-zoned land.

Finally, the dark green zone on the map is made up of areas beyond the Urban Development Boundary. This periurban/agricultural area is not well suited for densification, and will – in the City’s words – ‘retain a low-density character’.

Opportunities for developers

Canny developers will have been reading those paragraphs with wide eyes, spotting opportunities for numerous potential housing developments. In fact, the City’s statement highlights the ‘aggressive’ promotion of ‘inclusionary housing’ as being ‘one of the most transformational elements of [its] spatial vision’.

‘It prescribes to private developers that at least 30% of their housing developments should be for low-income and low- to middle-income households, or to households who otherwise could not afford to live in those developments,’ the City stated. ‘Housing is an important contributor to social inclusion and spatial integration, and this prescription would go a long way towards the achievement of an inclusive city.’

Johannesburg is about to change – perhaps for ever. For residents, there’s a mixture of hope and discomfort (depending largely on your current home address). For developers, however, there’s a real sense of opportunity.

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