After years of planning, a new range of more accessible property offerings have been launched in Hillcrest
story pamela whitby
Over the years, Hillcrest’s residential property offering has diversified considerably to meet the demand for more, and more varied, housing options. From the original large plots of land being subdivided to accommodate more freestanding houses to the building of complexes and, more recently, the development of large estates, like Cotswold Downs and Kirtlington.
“Other than the changes in residential accommodation, greater Hillcrest now has a host of restaurants, commercial centres and offices, and the lifestyle has changed from being that of a sleepy ‘B’ income area and transformed itself into a vibrant ‘A’ income area with local shopping and work opportunities, avoiding and minimising the daily rush down and up Fields Hill,” notes John Forbes, town planning consultant and former Manager: Planning and Development in the Hillcrest office of eThekwini Municipality.
“The minimum entry level for a new three-bedroom house in the area, however, is now approximately R3-million. There is a desperate need for housing in the order of R1-million for teachers, nurses, municipal and other officials who work in the area. This group currently travel from far afield, as they cannot afford the locally available accommodation. They logically must be catered for.”
Andrew Smith, Director of Smiths Property Group, the entity mandated to manage the sales for Emberton Estate, notes that first-time buyers have also historically been unable to get a foot on the property ladder in the area. “Many young adults who want to begin their lives where they grew up, close to family and friends, have limited options,” he says. “There has been immense interest in our apartments from this group.”
The demand has been noted for many years, and planning and research has been undertaken over the last two decades to address the future of the area. Forbes explains that the commercial developments have been progressively rolled out in terms of the original narrow Structure Plan for the Hillcrest CBD in the 1990s, the Hillcrest Gillitts Activity Corridor Local Area Plan of 2000, and the Hillcrest Gillitts Kloof Conceptual Land Use Management Plan of 2010. “The residential development has been guided by the existing schemes and the Outer West Spatial Development Plans, which are regularly updated,” he says.
In the early 2000s and at the height of the boom, a moratorium was imposed by the City as a result of the apparent runaway development in the area by the private sector and following concerns raised by the public. “After it was lifted, following agreement to pay a development levy by the developers, it led to the Shongweni Interchange, Hospital Road, Old Main Road and Inanda Road progressively being upgraded to resolve emerging traffic congestion. In addition, the Hillcrest Waste Water Treatment Works has since been upgraded, albeit limited in scope and a longer-term solution being desirable,” he adds.
The next step was to allow for more medium-density housing, including apartments. Three new developments – Cotswold Fenns, Emberton Estate and Morningside Apartments – are addressing the gap in the housing market by making more apartments available.
There have been concerns raised by some about the proliferation of properties of this density, however. Marge Mitchell, Chairman of Keep Hillcrest Beautiful Association says: “It is essential that development take place within a properly planned and executed long-term strategy, in partnership with civil society, to preserve the ‘ambience’ as far as possible. There is evidence that this is lacking, particularly in respect of roads, where severe traffic congestion is a daily event, and sewerage disposal, where these facilities are unable to handle existing demand, let alone any future increase in demand.”
Trevor Botsis of Cotswold Fenns says that they are cognisant of preserving the character of the area. “Buyers still want the Hillcrest lifestyle and residents will have access to swimming pools, an outdoor gym, braai areas and landscaped picnic spots,” he notes.
Les Botha of Morningside Apartments developers, The BND Property Group, says: “Our development offers secure, modern, lock-up-and-go homes with lift access right in the centre of Hillcrest, something that hasn’t been an option at all until now.”
The price tags for these new developments have been kept as affordable as possible and they are coming in between R1-million and R2-million. “An added bonus of a new development is that buying off-plan means no transfer fees and, therefore, much more value for your money,” notes Smith.