Housing Demand Booms -- In South African Shantytowns

The rabid market for housing has spread from upper- and middle-class neighborhoods to the shacks of impoverished slum townships, with tens of prospective buyers for every property.
June 8, 2006, 5am PDT | Nate Berg
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South African real estate companies have moved into a territory virtually untouched: shantytowns. Built by apartheid leaders in the '60s and '70s to push aside the country's black and mixed-race people, these slums have been slowly evolving into vibrant economies, with increasing amounts of local retail and infrastructure improvements. Shacks no bigger than a common bathroom are drawing in tens of purchase offers and netting anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000. Facing high unemployment and an even higher housing demand, the South Africa government has kicked up efforts and shone new light on an all-but ignored housing market.

"Spurred by government pressure â€" and the profit motive â€" South Africa's four big banks are entering the low-income market in earnest, offering home-loan packages for poor households and financing malls and other retail ventures in long-ignored areas."

"The national government has also weighed in. After building thousands of free one- and two-room corrugated-roof homes for the homeless, it has arranged to free up billions in low-cost home loans to the three citizens in four who earn less than about $500 a month."

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Published on Wednesday, June 7, 2006 in The New York Times
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