Too many offices, too little housing ... here’s a solution

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THE BOTTOM LINE

Too many offices, too little housing ... here’s a solution

Surely it is time to convert a large chunk of B- and C-grade offices into residential flats?

Nick Hedley

The massive oversupply of office space presents South Africa with an opportunity to rectify the pitiful spatial planning of the past.
Mixed-use nodes are few and far between, where developments tend to be purely commercial or entirely residential, leading to long commutes in cities that already have a severe dearth of public transport. There are not nearly enough homes and flats close to places of work – particularly for the poor.Perhaps it is time to make the most of the struggling office sector. The national office vacancy rate was 11.5% at the end of the first quarter of 2018, according to the South African Property Owners’ Association. That means more than one in 10 offices are vacant – a huge amount considering the endless office developments taking place between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and elsewhere.
Surely it is time to convert a large chunk of B- and C-grade offices into residential flats? JSE-listed Octodec Investments has set a good example of how this can be done.
But more attention needs to be given to this opportunity, even in nodes like Sandton, which, for all intents and purposes, is simply one giant, snazzy office development. Plus, converting old offices into housing and retail space could reduce the traffic problem and even add a bit of energy into the otherwise soulless finance hub. Sandton could learn a lot from nearby Rosebank, which seems to have got the mixed-use model right.

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