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When business and community work together, beautiful things can happen

Sky City is the largest privately funded affordable housing development in South Africa, and through community engagement and a forward-thinking approach its developer has created something that is far more than just housing. What was once a huge stretch of empty land in the South of Johannesburg is now a bustling suburb, where hardworking families have put down roots with all the amenities needed for a quality life close at hand.


Since developer Cosmopolitan Projects first broke ground on Sky City in 2017, 3,750 houses and 480 rental apartments have been delivered – with the ultimate plan over the next eight to ten years to complete 17,500 units, at a total cost of R10bn. Recognising that it’s not just a home that makes for a comfortable life, every house has fibre-to-the-home internet connectivity, and the development includes private education and childcare facilities, public transport infrastructure, retail and convenience offerings, as well as recreation areas such as jogging trails, soccer fields and play parks with jungle gyms.

Children from Grade RRR to matric can attend the affordable independent school Royal Schools Sky City, which currently has 1,128 learners enrolled for the 2021 academic year. A church and preschool are set to open in September. Shopping needs are covered by the Sky City Mall – a 32,000m² regional shopping centre developed by the GMI Property Group – and the construction of a R10m Engen garage opposite the mall will be completed later this year. In the advanced planning stages are an additional 17,500m² convenience and big box retail centre, a 4,200m² car dealership and fitment centre, as well as a 7,700m² college and medical clinic.


All of these amenities are within reach of the average South African earning from R16,000 per month and more – building packages start from R614,570, which equates to R5,500 per month. Those who earn less than R22,000 per month can also qualify for housing subsidies under the Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP). To date 528 FLISP applications have been approved. The houses have private gardens and are freehold, which means owners fully own both the land and house and can make structural changes to their property. Houses range from 40m² (two beds, one bath) up to 126m² double storeys (four beds, two baths).


So far, 18 million bricks, 3,2 million roof tiles and 340,000 litres of paint have been used in this development. What makes these numbers even more impressive is that most of the construction was done by companies owned by members of the local communities and labour originating from the surrounding Green Fields, Eden Park, Palm Ridge and Thokoza communities. This has been possible through the relationship with the GEPT Business Forum, which created the space for both business and community to thrive together. “Of the 61 subcontracted companies currently working at Sky City, 39 derive from the community,” says Willem Smit, senior site manager, Central Development Projects (CDP), Cosmopolitan Projects’ main contractor at Sky City. “That’s 63% direct community participation in the Sky City affordable housing project, and every year that number is increasing.”

Along with suppliers and partners, they invest in community contractors through training and skills transfer which is either done through external consultants or in-house trainers covering all the different trades. They also assist some contractors to secure credit facilities from manufacturing, supplier and distribution companies. For example, Nandipha Guma from Guma Projects first started working at Sky City in 2018 in the FLISP sections, with very little experience in construction and business management. “With the training and guidance of Kenneth Shabangu, CDP foreman, she has increased her skills, knowledge and ability to become the independent contractor that she is today,” Smit says.


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