Christine

Impact-driven property finance company TUHF21 has announced the finalisation of uMaStandi Fund, its first funding vehicle aimed at financing rental properties in townships. uMaStandi has attracted R125m from new sources in its first year of operations. The facility will be used to continue backing property developers providing affordable rental accommodation.

Funders include Nedbank, the Nedbank Black Business Partners Legacy Trust, (which includes Old Mutual’s participation), the SA SME Fund, Novo Impact Fund NPC, Apex-Hi Charitable Trust and Oppenheimer Generations Foundation.

“We are proud that we were able to attract a mixture of funding partners, including a commercial bank and some innovative impact funders. It is especially important to acknowledge that we secured this support because of the catalytic funding provided by Oppenheimer Generations Foundation,” says Lusanda Netshitenzhe, CEO of TUHF21.

“These partnerships will be key to building on the momentum we have created during the past year as we move forward in 2023. For a developing country like South Africa, uMaStandi provides an innovative way for township developers to grow and deliver compelling value for property owners to diversify their portfolios while offering quality, affordable housing.”

The uMaStandi facility uses ownership of property as equity to gear a rental enterprise where owners can build quality affordable rental units on their land. It also ensures that construction is properly managed and has all the necessary planning permissions in place.

High-quality investors

“When we approached funders to support our vision for township developments, we were initially apprehensive – but then pleasantly surprised by the high quality of investors who took the opportunity, their level of interest and their willingness to commit to township funding,” says Netshitenzhe.

Because of the sprawl and low densities in townships – a result of the ineffective use of space in the past – there are many opportunities for densification and bringing in mixed-use developments. This kind of development could stimulate township economies, create places of employment, and offer people access to economic opportunity.

Soweto strongest development market

“Our first draw has resulted in the acquisition of R40m worth of assets spread across 36 loans. By the end of 2023, we aim to achieve R100m worth of loans issued by uMaStandi. The demand is there, and we are seeing the need to mature beyond small-scale developers to mid-size developers,” says Netshitenzhe.

“Our observation has been that Soweto is still the strongest market for development, however, our new operation in Durban is picking up far quicker than expected, with Cape Town and East London also remaining key growth markets,” she concludes.

Township development facility, uMaStandi Fund, attracts R125m Read More »

Some people seem to be destined to find solutions to common problems. That was certainly the case for Bulali Mdontsane, whose path led him to becoming the developer, aided by uMaStandi, of Singleton Heights, located at 17 Casper Street in Protea Glen.

Originally from the Eastern Cape, Bulali began his career obtaining a degree in engineering with a focus on chemical engineering. He then obtained a Pr-Tech Engineer designation with the Engineering Council of South Africa and secured a master’s in engineering management at UJ. His forays in academia continued yet again, more recently, by earning an MBA from Wits University.

However, instead of ending up in engineering, Bulali’s passion led him to expanding his passions into becoming a property entrepreneur. “I consider myself an African child, and I saw all these various problems, one of which was the issue of human settlements,” he explains. Together with uMaStandi, Bulali is now doing his part to address the need for safe, comfortable accommodation in the townships.

”The Singleton Heights project is particularly significant to me. The building is a tribute to my uncle, who was a migrant worker working in the mines and had to endure living in hot, unpleasant conditions,” he continues.

The main aim of the Singleton Heights development is to provide clean, comfortable accommodation for people who are working in Johannesburg but who originally hail from far away.

“It is for people who move out of the homes they grew up in and they don’t want the back-room type of space; they want a safe space where they can park their cars, but they also like the communal lifestyle of the township,” he explains.

The double story property consists of 30 bachelor apartments that are 25 square metres in size, and each have their own dedicated parking bay. They are designed to be lock-up-and-go accommodation, 29 of the thirty are let, and the remaining one is for a live-in caretaker.

On the cards for the near future is a laundromat, and Bulali is also considering adding a space out of which precooked and hot food could be sold. Both would create entrepreneurial opportunities for other small businesses in the community.

“Ï was brought up with the philosophy of Ubuntu, which I still believe in, and with these plans, I believe there would be shared value. Lift as You rise, I would garner greater value as the landlord, my tenants would have greater convenience, and the entrepreneurs involved would be able to share the market. The aim is to uplift the community together,” he enthuses.

Bulali explains that for the most part the development of the apartment block proceeded smoothly, with construction beginning in February 2022, and finishing in July. After final inspections were completed in August, the apartments were ready to be let. A notable achievement of the project is that it was completed two months ahead of schedule.

Singleton Heights is not Bulali’s first foray into property development and ownership, but it is his most ambitious to date, which is why he turned to uMaStandi. Previously, he acted as the project manager on his first two developments, sourcing the required contractors on his own. Those developments were smaller in scope involving the conversion and extension of existing structures, and consisting of six units in Durban and in Soweto, respectively.

Bulali’s comprehensive academic background served him well, with his engineering experience helping him manage the various puzzle pieces that go into successful development, while the MBA helped him with the management and financial aspects. But, he explains, working with uMaStandi has helped him manage his property portfolio in a more professional manner as well as avoid some of the major traps and pitfalls involved in an owner-run development.

No project is without its challenges, and Bulali had to contend with two major ones. The first was dealing with the inefficiencies of the municipality and utilities, which he acknowledges he underestimated. This slowed the process at times.

The second was the ‘construction mafia’ – third parties who demanded 30% stake in the project. This challenge he had accounted for, he relates, having ensured that his construction team was locally sourced. Bulali also ensured that he communicated extensively with the local councillor and with the local community ahead of time, which forestalled individuals’ attempts to hijack the project for their own gain.

“I learnt that rule number one is to always obtain community involvement before bringing development into the area,” he relates.

His advice for anyone who wanted to get into property development is to bear in mind that every phase of this business is about people; from aligning with the neighbours, ensuring you have buy-in from political leaders and the community, being able to connect with people is essential. Bulali also stresses the importance of looking beyond one’s own financial gain, a value which aligns him with uMaStandi’s purpose.

“I think as developers we have a role to play in changing the face of the spaces that we walk across and addressing the housing problem in South Africa. And for me, my chosen space is the township and I do believe that my mission and what TUHF does through uMaStandi, is linked. No one is coming to save us. People need safe living spaces and I think we can be the solution we are waiting for,” says Bulali.

Taking solo living to new heights with uMaStandi Read More »

For Jade Barkhuysen, his journey into property development began ten years ago, when he purchased his first property in his hometown of Gqeberha and began building his property portfolio .

Bayside Lodge, located at 59- Green Street, North End in Gqeberha, is another first for him: it is the  first project he has undertaken with the aid of TUHF.

Until now, Jade has learned the ins and outs of property investing brokering primarily through self-study, through books, seminars, and coaches who showed him how to find good deals that he could renovate and sell for a profit or keep as an income generating asset.  But Bayside Lodge is different, he explains, as it speaks to his passion for providing clean, affordable accommodation in the inner city of Gqeberha.

Bayside Lodge also stands out as Jade’s first redevelopment of a property of this size, which is why he turned to TUHF for assistance.

Jade and his team took on the challenge of refurbishing this brownfields project and converted   the old commune with 19 bedrooms into 17 efficient studio apartments (which range from 14 to 25 square metres), each with its own bathroom (with shower, basin and toilet) and kitchenette.

‘’The most important thing for property investors in Nelson Mandela Bay is to be able to efficiently manage their electricity and water expenditures, in lieu of ongoing loadshedding in the country and the persistent water shortages in the Nelson Mandela Bay area. The pricing for water in particular has skyrocketed, which has derailed many a property investor who didn’t account for it in their plans,” he explains.

The solution for Bayside Lodge was to ensure tenants had their own prepaid electricity and water meters and could be individually accountable for the utilities they use.

The property includes a communal laundry facility which is open to all the residents – who are primarily young professionals between the ages of 21 and 35. Providing fibre connectivity was more of a challenge, as fibre isn’t yet available in the area. However, Jade is currently looking at how connectivity can be offered through another option.

What Bayside Lodge does have is its own borehole, which is particularly important given the water shortages in the area. “‘If there’s ever a problem with either the municipal or borehole supply, we can always switch between the two. I think that does give this property an important advantage because the tenants know that they’re always going to have water,” he notes.

While the water from the borehole is regularly tested at a lab, and approved as being safe for cooking and washing, and even consumption, it is further safeguarded by a comprehensive filtration system as well. Additionally, in response to the critically low water levels in the area, all the taps and showerheads in the bathrooms have low-flow fittings. Solar power is also on the cards for the development within the next six to 12-months once it is fully leased and generating the requisite cash flow.

Almost every commercial project has some challenges, and according to Jade, Bayside Lodge had to face a significant one. Even though the land already had approved blueprints from the 1920s, it took three rejections for the new building plans to be accepted. The approvals procedure caused two-week delays between each resubmission, which had an influence on acquiring finance.

“That was quite a nerve-wracking stage, because I needed the building plans to be approved before I could actually get the financing,” he explains.

Those delays ultimately lead to Jade having to take a leap of faith, buying the property himself for cash to prevent it from being relisted on the market and then refinancing it with TUHF.

‘’A key takeaway from this development is that it really is a collaborative team effort. As a developer, while you need to bring everything together, you don’t have the individual skills to do everything yourself. ,  It is essential to have the support of a competent team of professionals and an organization like TUHF,’’ he stresses.

For other aspiring new-fledged property developers, Jade advises finding the right deals in areas in in-city and inner city areas where TUHF finances, and then approaching them to work together.

“Personally, I intend to continue following my passion for investing in the inner-city, because there’s a unique fulfilment that comes from creating an environment where people can feel safe and live well,’’ Jade concludes.

Renovating a brownfields project in Nelson Mandela Bay Read More »

“I’m very happy that TUHF is a part of my team. They are unlike your normal banks – they see the potential.” Lazola Kubukeli talks about his second project with TUHF to refurbish Grace Villas in East London.

Project Grace Villas: East London Read More »

“TUHF epitomises the development finance principles, because they have a unique understanding for this market.” Ayanda Gqoboka talks about his journey with TUHF to refurbish 3 Dunrobyn Court into a mixed-use property offering affordable rental housing to young professionals in East London.

Project Dunrobyn Court: East London Read More »

“TUHF helped us get through lockdown and challenges to make a success of this project.” Anele and Ziphozihle Gqokomo talk about their journey with us to refurbish a run-down house into beautiful, affordable rental housing in East London.

Project LT Court: East London Read More »

Paul Jackson, CEO of TUHF, shares his views on what it means to be TUHF

“We built a business on a number of founding principles,” says Jackson, when asked what TUHF stands for. “Those principles are:

1.We are going to be entrepreneurs. This means that, if a good deal walks through our doors, we can’t resist doing it. We’re very deal oriented, and we want to take smart risks, because we see potential and opportunities where others don’t.

2. We are going to give our clients and potential clients a quick response. We are street-smart enough, and know our areas of finance well enough, to be able look at a building and state ‘yes we can’ or ‘no we can’t’ quickly. We know the inner- and in-city property market better than anyone else and this gives us the confidence to make those calls.

3. We fund transactions, not wishes. We like to work with clients who are committed to their property journey, have done their homework and are serious about taking on projects. We also like our loan officers to be entrepreneurial – meaning they are thorough in evaluating risk and potential – and we underwrite projects that we are confident will show good returns for our clients and for us.

4. Nimbleness is key. We respond to markets and opportunities quickly and with agility. We realise that getting bigger has slowed us a bit, but the principle still stands as we balance legal and compliance requirements, and risk management with the need to be nimble.”

A critical difference between TUHF and other mortgage financiers, is that TUHF is less traditional in the ways in which it determines investment potential. “We’re agnostic about the ‘usual things’ that people use to judge a person’s potential,” Jackson explains. “Some of our most successful and longest standing clients have limited formal education, for example, and certainly didn’t have much by way of financial means when they first approached us. TUHF is able to see potential where others don’t, looking more at the entrepreneur’s character and commitment, their street smarts and understanding of their investment neighbourhood than we do at their qualifications on paper or their bank balance.”

TUHF believes that the power of local knowledge is a strong indicator of potential. “When we engage with potential clients, we have to comply with regulations for lending,” Jackson explains. “But we also ask ourselves: Does this entrepreneur know the service providers in the area that can help make their project a reality? Do they know the area itself and understand the needs of the community living there? Do they demonstrate a commitment to hard work and show common sense? Do they have an entrepreneurial spirit and awareness of risk and how to mitigate it?”

Besides this unique view of client and project potential, TUHF’s commitment to its market niche is distinctive. “Banks come and go in this market,” Jackson says, reflecting on the almost 20-years that TUHF has been in operation. “We used to compete heavily with traditional banks in our areas of expertise, but they are not entrenched. TUHF is committed and has remained active in our sector for almost 20 years. We don’t disinvest or seek opportunity elsewhere when there’s a crisis in the inner- or in-city property market. Instead, we work with our clients to get through the difficult times – from xenophobia flaring up to the COVID-19 pandemic to challenges with local municipal service delivery. We’re consistently ready to work with and support clients, and to invest.”

This commitment stems from TUHF’s unwavering belief in making massive impact through scale. “If you’re serious about inclusiveness, you understand that it’s about microeconomic effects,” Jackson says. “This means making a difference one neighbourhood, one city block, one community at a time. We do this not only by investing in projects that create affordable rental housing where it’s most needed, but by using local service providers in that neighbourhood, creating work and growing micro markets for goods and services.”

TUHF’s people really want to make a difference. “We’re not hard-nosed about the commercial benefits to ourselves personally,” Jackson explains. “We have to tick certain boxes, such as zoning and FICA requirements, just like any other investment financiers do. What we try to do is differentiate ourselves on our ability to assist and flex with our clients to get those boxes ticked. Because if the deal is worth the effort, we will help to get everything done.”

Because TUHF is about impactful investment, its people are as invested in getting a deal done as its clients are. “We will spend time on potential clients that are committed,” Jackson says, “because it’s as personal for us as it is for them. The converse is that we’re probably less likely to invest time and effort in those who are uncertain or not serious. It takes away from the time we could be spending with an entrepreneur that is truly passionate and committed.”

“Entrepreneurs are cautious and thoughtful, not rash and reckless,” Jackson says, “but we do want to do the deal.”

“We’re an invested stakeholder. We worry about what’s going on downtown – we’ve invested R2.5 billion in Johannesburg city centre alone. Because we have ‘skin in the game’ we are very committed to addressing concerns in the areas in which we operate. We firmly believe that we have to offer financial services to the individuals and communities that others may overlook, as the backer of choice for Mzansi property entrepreneurs.” concludes Jackson.

What does it mean to be TUHF? Read More »

For Da Costa, his journey to property development success has spanned fifteen years and culminated in successfully refurbishing two buildings in one of the most densely crowded suburbs in Gauteng – Hillbrow.

Originally a mechanical engineer, Augy Da Costa, with the aid of TUHF, found success through refurbishing previously run-down spaces into vibrant hubs for retail and residential tenants.

The transformation of the first of his ventures, Hollywood Heights, on the corner of Pretoria and Claim Street, began when he purchased the ramshackle building in 2005.

The first addition was a bakery, spanning 850 square metres, which performed well. From 2009 to 2012 Hollywood Heights received a new lease on life, when Augy, with a loan from TUHF, refurbished the building, converting its existing office space into 196 residential apartments.

Today, there are 14 studio apartments, 56 bachelor apartments, 84 one-bedroom and 42 two-bedroom apartments. Each are affordable, with rentals ranging from R2 800 to R5 800.  

Hollywood Heights also caters to a variety of retail tenants, including McDonald’s, African Bank, Capitec, Nedbank, Western Union/Travelex, Hollywood Bets, a barber shop, Cyber Café and a coin operated laundromat.  

‘’The laundromat is particularly popular with both tenants and foot traffic alike,” he notes.  

Hollywood Heights has a unique feature that lends itself further to building a new family – a school of its own. ‘’The school has eight classrooms and caters to Grade 00 to Grade R, with its own secured playground that the children of tenants can use with supervision,” he explains. 

Five years later, Augy followed Hollywood Heights with another building that he and TUHF revitalised, Cumberland Court, on the corner of Pretorius and Klein Street. This is a residential complex that underwent a significant refurbishment, involving some apartments being converted into two bedrooms, and the construction of an eight-story tower that could accommodate eight additional one-bedroom apartments. Cumberland Court now contains 54 one-bedroom apartments and six two bedrooms, along with one bachelor’s apartment, with rentals costing between R4750 for a one bedroom and R5900 for a two-bedroom.

As refurbishing the buildings was capital intensive, Augy credits his partnership with TUHF for making it possible. ‘’The big five banks’ loan period was eight years, whereas TUHF offered a 15-year loan, which certainly helped with my cash flow,” he explains.

Contributing to the success of both properties is their close proximity to public transport, the city centre, and accessible Wi-Fi for a flat monthly fee. Residents can also bring their own DSTV decoder and use the existing infrastructure. Both buildings are served by comprehensive security, with Hollywood Heights watched by ten security guards and 160 surveillance cameras, and Cumberland Court served by three security guards and 50 cameras. Additionally, all units have intercoms, and the buildings feature biometric access.

Augy has one strict rule to ensure that the accommodation is kept safe for its residents, and that is that no alcohol can be sold on site. Additionally, the properties allow visitors up until 21h00. 

Both Hollywood Heights and Cumberland Court cater to a wide range of tenants, from students and single young professionals to new families, with many of the tenants working in the food and restaurant industry. Easy access to restaurants and a Super Spar also makes it an attractive place for families and single people to call home.

As with all projects, there have been challenges to overcome. ‘’Up until April of 2020 when the pandemic began, I hadn’t known the meaning of the word vacant. I had never had a vacancy whatsoever for all those years,” he says.

While Covid-19 changed that for a while, today both buildings have largely recovered, with Hollywood Heights and Cumberland Court currently having a 96% and 98% occupancy rate respectively. That is a notable achievement, as one of the major challenges property owners have faced – which was amplified during the peak of the pandemic – has been the devastating impact of high unemployment and the knock-on effect this has on occupancy rates, as people struggle to make ends meet. For

Augy, the difficult economy has meant that he has put his plans for his next developments on hold until the economy improves. 

He next plans – with the aid of TUHF – are to continue refurbishing properties in Hillbrow – a market he now understands very well.

Refurbishing Hillbrow to reach greater heights of success Read More »

Sheldon Johnsen and his business partner, Jacques Nagel, are two of TUHF’s most dynamic clients in KwaZulu Natal. With a large property strong portfolio, they’re demonstrating exactly what impact through scale looks like.

Located in Glenwood, Durban, 139 Lena Ahrens is one such property that has made a real impact in its area. Originally it was a maisonette that was being rented out by the room and wasn’t well managed. Neighbours were extremely unhappy and had been complaining about the building for some time.

Sheldon and Jacques saw the potential in the property and developed two maisonettes and a three-storey walk-up apartment block on the stand. “The neighbours were not happy with the way the property was being run before we acquired it, and they were worried we were going to turn it into student accommodation,” Sheldon recalls. “But they’ve approached us since completion to tell us how much happier they are to be living near the property now.”

Built five years ago, 139 Lena Ahrens was one of Sheldon and Jacques’ first projects with TUHF. Sheldon recalls the property came with some big challenges, including a considerably large outstanding rates bill, three-phase power issues and some interesting building challenges.

“This is one of my favourite projects because we learned so much from it,” he says. “No build is ever exactly the same as the last, and on this one we had to install 38 pilings to provide the building with extra support in the soft sand it was standing on.”

Across their portfolio, Sheldon and Jacques focus on providing safe, affordable housing to people who are just starting out. “Our tenants tend to be young people in entry level jobs who have just moved to Durban,” Sheldon says. “So, all our units are bachelor units that can accommodate two people to cater for what this type of tenant needs. We include a kitchenette, shower and toilet, and always use porcelain tiles and granite tops. We also keep a close eye on utilities, as this is important to our tenants and can get out of hand easily if you aren’t careful. Energy-saving geysers and individually billed water and electricity metres are just some of the ways we help our tenants to manage their utilities.”

Sheldon and Jacques believe their success as property entrepreneurs is due to their hands-on approach. “You can’t run it by remote control,” Jacques says. “When you’re investing R7 or 8 million in a property it doesn’t make sense to us to hand that investment over to someone else to run, or to treat it as a side hustle. It’s important to be there and to be involved from the very beginning to make sure the build goes well.

“Once you’ve got tenants moving in, being involved in the running of the property daily means you can address any unforeseen concerns there and then, before they become a problem, and make sure that the property is well maintained and safe,” he continues.

One example of just such an unforeseen concern on Lena Ahrens was the quality of the mobile signal in the area. “When people started working from home at the beginning of the first COVID lockdown, we suddenly had a lot of tenants complaining about the signal being bad,” Sheldon recalls. “We’ve since installed a fibre connection so that our tenants can work from home with good quality internet connections, and it’s certainly helped us to retain tenants.”

Sheldon and Jacques started working with TUHF when the KwaZulu Natal office was very small, and Lusanda Netshitenzhe was still the area manager. “Lusanda came out to have a look at our first-ever property, and we’ve grown our business quite quickly since then.”

They have done several projects with TUHF and learned a lot. “When you build,” Sheldon says, “you should always expect the unexpected. One of the things we’ve found most helpful working with TUHF is that they have a lot of experience so they can help to identify potential challenges early on. They have extensive checklists to help you evaluate all the possible issues with a project, and even though it can seem like a lot of paperwork upfront, you see the value when you start the work.”

“TUHF has also always been good about not letting us overstretch ourselves,” he continues. “They provide an amazing support structure and pre-empt things that we wouldn’t have thought of. They’re great to work with, especially if you’re just starting out in the affordable housing space. They hold your hand the whole way through and help you ensure that you have good governance in place throughout the project.”

“One of the reasons that Sheldon and Jacques have been so successful in their property journey is that they not only have skin in the game; they also have heart,” says Sabir Yusuf, portfolio manager at TUHF. “They are extremely hands on and they do a lot of walking, literally, along the streets of the areas they are interested in to find properties with good potential.”

Sheldon and Jacques can boast 98-99% occupancy rates in their buildings. Sabir believes this is because of the heart they put into their business.

“We have full time cleaners and gardeners at each property,” Sheldon says. “We make sure that, if one of our tenants reports an issue, we’re there within an hour to attend to it. We do other little things as well, like making all our bathrooms wet rooms. This makes it easier for tenants to clean, which they love. And we make sure to provide good security, with burglar bars and gates even on third-floor units, which is important to ensure people feel safe in their homes.”

“Putting this extra care into the properties helps to build good relationships with tenants,” Jacques agrees. “It lets them know you’re invested, that you care about their living standards, and creates loyalty between you.”

Asked for their advice for aspiring property entrepreneurs, Sheldon says: “It’s a full-time position. Don’t go into it as a side hustle or a hobby. And it’s not for everyone, so think carefully before you commit. You will be dealing with sticky situations and doing a lot of problem solving, so speak to someone who is already in the game – like TUHF – to make sure it’s really for you. If you decide it is, stay hands on every day.”

139 Lena Ahrens brings happiness to Glenwood neighbours Read More »