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Property experts on SONA2020: Concerted effort needed to change outlook

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Many in the industry welcomed some pronouncements by President Cyril Ramaphosa, however, most want to see action.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise in his SONA 2020 of shovel-ready projects and of “cranes and yellow equipment”  once again being an everyday sight over the landscape of the country only slightly moved developers and the construction and real estate industries, long dogged by a waning economy and fast constriction.

FNB commercial property economist John Loos says “words will not change much. For anyone to sit up and take notice there will have to be some concrete deliverables.”

The real estate industry has mixed feelings. Optimistic by nature, many welcomed some pronouncements, however most want to see action.

Both the construction and development industries, having come through some of the hardest battles in their fields over the past two years, are less excited by the promises.

Deon van Zyl, chairperson of the Western Cape Property Development Forum says the property development and construction industries have been in a state of crisis for many years because of “bureaucracy and red tape. Neither the government nor the private sector can perform new building or infrastructure provision if statutory approvals are not aligned”. 

“It’s wonderful to hear that water use licences will now be issued within 90 days, but what about planning, environmental, heritage and building plan approvals that also take years? And what about proactive infrastructure provision by local authorities that are holding back investment?”

The economy’s downturn had in particular hit the construction industry and last year well-established, large and JSE-listed construction businesses downsized and even closed doors.

Building refurbishment company, Indawo’s chairman, Peter Jäck said while SONA’s attention focussed on turning the economy around, if there are no immediate actionable initiatives, the construction industry was not likely to return to the job creation engine it was just a few years ago.

“The past two years have been the most difficult I have had to navigate in my 37 years in the business. The industry can return to profitability in 2020, but it needs a concerted effort from industry players, corporate South Africa and the government”. 


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