Many mayors and MECs coming in and out of office have promised to resolve the issue of accommodation.

The City of Johannesburg’s housing agency has been handed the additional, difficult role of dealing with student accommodation, an issue with a troubled record.

Johannesburg Mayor Geoff Makhubo said on May 4, 2021 that the Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco) is to undertake responsibility for providing affordable student accommodation in the city. 

Joshco is the department that handles the city’s housingand this is the first time student accommodation has been included in its mandate. Wits Vuvuzela contacted the Joshco public relations team for comment on the initiative, and was told “the project is still under way, as this is pending the accreditation process of the building. 

The new Joshco mandate is one of several tasks the city’s governing body has been promising to tackle over the past years. Many mayors and MECs coming in and out of office have promised to resolve the issue of accommodation. 

In April 2019, TimesLive reported that former Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba had released city-owned properties to developers for residential and student accommodation. This saw Wits University allocated five properties out of the 21 released. Wits Vuvuzela investigated the buildings and found that three of them are still abandoned, while another is taken up by studio apartments. 

Overpriced accommodation has been a key issue among students from different institutions of learning. There has been an increase in cases of students falling victim to bogus accommodation advertiseonline, which saw one Wits student lose more than R8 000 in a scam publicised by Wits Vuvuzela. 

A third-year student at Rosebank College, Palesa Masetle said, “The prices for student accommodation are too high and there is nothing I can do but settle for what is given, or risk not finishing my [degree].” 

The city area of Braamfontein is home to two universities and about 20 registered colleges, as listed on Google maps. Two of the most prominent student accommodations, South Point and Student Digz, cater for much of the student living space in Braamfontein. These two establishments have reportedly been charging Wits and University of Johannesburg students high prices, according to the Daily Maverick. 

In April 2020 the Wits SRC handed a memorandum to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature demanding an unoccupied building in Parktown owned by governmentGauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi responded by saying he sympathised with students in their struggles. He assured them the government was on their side.  

A building that Joshco will be transforming into student accommodation is expected to be in Parktown. This could be the same one the SRC approached the legislature about in 2020, and one of the five Mashaba presented to Wits University in 2019.

FEATURED IMAGE: Aerial view of Braamfontein: Photo: Alfonso Nqunjana