ERA says charter could unlock huge black market

Greater credibility for black estate agents under the banner of recognised property branding is the key to creating an enabling environment for the confident volume trade of property in black areas.

This perhaps overlooked or under-stated aspect of the BEE Property Charter has been identified by ERA property group CEO Gerhard Kotzé who says the charter will have the effect of formalising the credibility of property marketing services for marginalised black consumers.

"The potential inherent in this is reinforced by Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu's announcement of the new national housing plan.

"A cornerstone of the plan is the arrangement between the Housing Department and the major banks, committing R42-billion to housing loans over the next three years for people earning between R3 500 and R7 000 per month, with the state standing surety for 50 percent of the risk of the loans.

"Government has also undertaken responsibility for housing those earning less than R1 500 per month, via a full R28 000 subsidy, while those earning between R1 500 and R3 200 per month will also qualify for the subsidy on payment of a 10 percent deposit.

"The foundations are therefore being laid for kick-starting the lower end of the housing market where it really matters if the majority of South Africans are going to have the chance to participate in property wealth."

Kotzé says it's tempting to conjure with the numbers, "but it is sufficient to know that the multiplier effect through the economy will be significant, even if delivery bottlenecks allow only a small percentage of the available funds to be translated into bricks and mortar.

"When one realises that the property boom of the moment is based mainly on the traditional white market, the potential inherent in what could be termed the 'peripheral' benefits of the Property Charter is significant."

Black property ownership is of course very much a fact of life, notably in the previously "whites only" areas, and ownership in traditionally black townships is gathering momentum as 99-year leaseholders seek to convert their rights to freehold.

"There are even plans for a golf estate in Soweto. However this would obviously be aimed at the elite and I believe what the charter will do is really give impetus to the volume market by increasing black participation in what the economists call the supply side of the industry, importantly in terms of provision of estate agent expertise and services to facilitate property buying and selling.

"The aspirations of this market are there. It's really mainly a question of tapping into them with the kind of professional services that the traditionally white dominated market takes for granted.

"Having said that, overcoming supply/manpower bottlenecks and the bureaucratic inertia that is in the way of large scale, low-end property developments is a major challenge."

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