A new generation of entrepreneurs is emerging in the township rental market, and a former maths teacher has redeveloped a double-storey building for professionals who are looking for something different
The developer of the first double-storey rental flats in Nyanga’s Old Location paints them cream and white inside, a constant reminder to tenants to maintain cleanliness. Exterior walls are green, representing the wealth to which she aspires.
Monica Silimela, 54, a teacher-turned-businesswoman who resigned from Hlengisa Primary in 2010, where she had taught mathematics for 18 years, used her pension in 2016 to buy a property with a huge yard situated a few houses from her Nyanga East home.
Silimela belongs to a new generation of property entrepreneurs emerging in Cape Town’s townships. Spotting a gap and a need in the market for affordable rental accommodation, they have seized an opportunity by building solid brick-and-mortar developments.
She says she noticed relocating professionals were struggling to find accommodation, and not all wanted to reside in other developing areas, such as Parklands.
In 2017 she demolished the acquired house and built 17 rental flats in a double-storey building, with six flats on each level and another five adjoining. Each flat is a different size, but the white doors, light red tiles on the floors and cream built-in cupboards indicate similar designs being used.
Each unit on the ground floor has a concrete white ceiling. Those above sport grey rhino board ceilings. Between the levels is a thick concrete-reinforced slab. A high wall and a black steel gate, unlockable only from the inside, ensure tenants’ safety. In the kitchens, bottom and top cupboards are separated by grey tiles enhancing colour.
Each cupboard has a black built-in stove. Walls are painted white. Each flat has a shower and a toilet, the area decorated with grey wall tiles. Floors have a light-red colour – Silimela’s favourite colour – and each a stunning two-seater black leather couch serving as a place to crash after a day’s work.
“Flats are fully furnished. All a tenant has to bring is a fridge and a washing machine,” says Silimela.
“For colours, I chose white and cream as it is easy to notice when they need cleaning, plus white doors because they represent cleanliness, which is next to godliness. Another advantage of cream is it plays a role in mental vitality – it opens the brain.”
The light red on the floors provides her with strength. “Whenever I am feeling down I just step on this colour, and I am immediately uplifted.” Renting flats has become big business in the townships with professionals seeking affordable accommodation.
“I considered the need for accommodation first before venturing into this business. I did my research and found relocating professionals required accommodation. Another advantage about this area is it is close to transport.
“Taxi ranks and the bus terminus are just around the corner. These flats are top quality, designed for working professionals. I have prospective tenants keen to acquire a unit. It is a lifetime investment.”
One of the first tenants, Masechaba Nchabeleng, a flight attendant with SAA, says it is worth every cent.
“When I arrived in Cape Town I lived in Montana for three months and then heard someone talking about the flats. I immediately terminated my lease agreement and came here. I can’t imagine leaving. It is well-secured from the gate. It has parking and is convenient for my transport to pick up and drop me off,” she says.