NOMPU SIZIBA: JSE-listed Balwin Properties has embarked on building the largest housing project in the country to date. That’s expected to see the project worth R44 billion by the time of its completion in 2030.
This past Sunday there was much fanfare as the Mooikloof Mega City project was launched in Pretoria, with the likes of President Cyril Ramaphosa in attendance to give the project his blessing, and deem this project as one of many infrastructure projects to be implemented that should help change the fortunes of the South African economy.
Well, to tell us more specifically about the Mooikloof Mega City project, and the nitty-gritties thereof, I’m joined on the line by Steve Brookes, the CEO at Balwin Properties. Thanks very much, Steve, for joining us. I understand that the Mooikloof Mega City project will be the biggest sectional title development in the country’s history, and you just kicked off construction on Saturday. So what does this project promise in terms of the type and numbers of properties to be built?
STEVE BROOKES: I think the most important thing with a mega project like this is not the promise, it’s the delivery. The delivery of this project is a dream of mine.
I’ve been working on this project for 10 years as the landowner, and we finally came up with a concept which is our green brand project, which is exceptional. It brings back the sub-R1 million residential property to the market. It’s starting at R499 000 up to R899 000.
It’s the perfect sector that is needed in mass housing. It caters for all the government employees with all their allowances, their housing allowances. It also caters for previously disadvantaged people who can live closer to town. It’s a great area.
Mooikloof is a beautiful part of the world. It’s not just for the wealthy, it’s for the people. It’s got affordability of between R499 000 and R899 000.
It also qualifies for the Flisp (Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme) allowances, which is fantastic. And we’ve created a city of 50 000 apartments with massive green spaces, a beautiful nature reserve right down the middle. My wife’s one of my biggest critics and we are determined to tree it up, put as many trees as possible there. There’s a school, there’s a fire station, police station; there’s a hospital coming. It really is creating a mini-city in Mooikloof.
NOMPU SIZIBA: It does sound like it’s going to be lovely, but then equally as much as the entry point sounds affordable and reasonable, by putting all of those lovely extras in there, presumably people are renting, it might be a bit costly in terms of the service charges that they’ll have to pay.
STEVE BROOKES: No, we’re keeping the service charges under R10 a square metre, which is very affordable. And the reason we are managing to do that is that this pool, everything green, our buildings are fully green-classified, and we are managing to get solar in there, water, black-water harvesting, and so forth. We really worked with the top people in the industry to make sure that the project is as green as possible; therefore it makes it more affordable.
NOMPU SIZIBA: When you talk about solar, are you saying that all the properties that you’re going to build there will have built-in solar?
STEVE BROOKES: It’s not built in. It goes into the grid. So the grid for the entire development is supplemented by solar.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Excellent. This is a public-private partnership. How is it going to work? Who’s bringing what to the party?
STEVE BROOKES: Well, what we bring to the party is the land and the construction and the funding thereof, and what the government brings to the party through a public-private participation is all the infrastructure. And remember, the infrastructure, not just for this development, the infrastructure is for the greater good of the area, that entire eastern part of Pretoria, of Tshwane. That’s very important to remember. So we are purely going to facilitate it, get the job done. And my responsibility is to get it done on time and on budget.
It’s completely transparent, open to any audit, because obviously; we all know the problems we’ve had in government recently. As I said to the powers that be, you’re welcome to audit it to death. We charge a small management fee to manage the process, and off we go. But I repeat. It’s for the greater good of the area, and I will make sure that there are trees and bicycle lanes, and that pedestrians are properly catered for.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Over the life of the project, which is around 10 years, you indicate that some 115 000 job opportunities will be created. In what various sectors can we expect to see those jobs?
STEVE BROOKES: Well, you have two types of job creation. We have Professor Francois Viruly on board to make sure that our numbers actually make sense, and he’s highly competent. There’s what you call the direct and the indirect. Direct is actually the people that are working there, and the indirect is all the kitchen-makers and glass-makers in the area that benefit from it. And then we’ve obviously got the long-term job sustainability.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Right. Just in terms of when you’re going to start marketing the properties, when is that going to happen? And how should people engage you who are interested? There are many people in Pretoria listening to this who may be excited about the development.
STEVE BROOKES: First of all, thank you very much for punting this development. I really appreciate that. We started selling on Saturday and Sunday, and we had the pleasure of selling 250 apartments this weekend. And if they go to our website, www.balwin.co.za they’ll pick it up and they’re welcome to correspond with us or phone us or email us or WhatsApp us. We’re open for business seven days a week
NOMPU SIZIBA: Right. And are people open to a discount if they’re able to pay cash in advance?
STEVE BROOKES: No, we don’t take cash in advance. If they did pay cash, they would put the money into the attorneys’ trust account. They would earn interest on the money. We’ve always been very cautious with people’s money. When the property is complete to their satisfaction, then it will be registered in their name, and then we get paid.
NOMPU SIZIBA: So, in launching the project yesterday, President Ramaphosa said it could serve as a catalyst for other investments and developments. Do you think that, with the concentration of people you’d be building for, indeed further investment and development will follow?
STEVE BROOKES: Yes. We are looking at quite a few more projects around the country. So we’re looking at a couple more mega cities around the country, and we will in due course be announcing them, if there’s obviously appetite, and if the government thinks our credentials are correct on each project.
The process you have to go through with government to get these projects approved is world-class. It is a very, very diligent process and you really have to have all your ducks in a row.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Yes. Now Steve, often the headlines are not very flattering about the South African economy, and even its prospects, but clearly you’re very excited about going ahead with this project. What keeps you positive?
STEVE BROOKES: I’m a Proudly South African. I love this country. I believe in redressing the horrible legacy of apartheid. You know, the 40-40-40 principle, which President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about, is so true. You know, 40% of the people can’t afford housing, 40% spend 40 minutes travelling to work, and then 40% of their income is spent on travelling. That’s diabolical. If you go to other countries, they have the Tube or the bus system.
We need to get going in South Africa and get this country right. I think we have a magnificent country. We have a great President. I believe he’s going to lead this country forward. He has got a difficult job. I really commend him on what he’s doing. And I think we can. I think he needs these public-private initiatives that are transparent and honest. We are listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, so our results are public knowledge. My salary is public knowledge. I think that’s what’s needed now – proper transparency.
NOMPU SIZIBA: That was Steve Brookes. He’s the CEO at Balwin Properties.