Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

The First Project: Europa House

This is the last post that I’ve copied and pasted from MHA’s Policies and Procedures Manual.  Eventually I’ll start writing my own blog again.


Madulammoho’s first housing opportunity came through the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) – an entity of the City of Johannesburg. JPC expropriated the overcrowded Europa Hotel in 2003 and the tenants were evicted in 2004. The refurbishment of the empty Europa was then put out to tender for the creation of affordable rental accommodation coupled with training and development programmes.

The redevelopment of the Europa had been in discussion for a number of years. In its heyday the Europa was the hotel of choice for the elite, and the restaurant in the hotel was legendary. Attached to the Europa was the popular 24-hour nightclub ‘Razz Matazz’, where Brenda Fassie often sang. The Europa was an icon of a glorious past and drew on many sentimental memories of the city.

By the early 2000’s the Europa had, however, become a den of iniquity, with open prostitution and abuse of drugs and liquor. It was a crime and corruption hotspot, with certain local political leaders and a number of corrupt police officers having a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. MES had aligned with those who pressured the City to turn conditions at the Europa around.

In its tender for the redevelopment of Europa, Madulammoho proposed that rather than owning the building it would lease it from the City for 20 years. This meant that the City did not have to alienate the asset. The City would provide the building and the Province the institutional subsidy. Based on the variety of affordable units provided, as well as the accompanying training and support for tenants provided through MES and the fact that Madulammoho would not own the building, Madulammoho was awarded the tender.

The redevelopment of Europa was completed in September, 2005. It was a difficult process given the tough environment. Twelve ten-tonne truck loads of rubbish were removed from the building before the redevelopment could even begin. Even the lift motor had been stolen. That is a three tonne piece of equipment!

Application forms were handed out on Monday morning. The company made 100 forms available. By 9h00 these had been handed out and a further 1000 were required. Within three days, 3000 applications had been received. Madulammoho employed someone and harnessed its internal staff to work through every application.

Tenants were accepted into the new facility in October 2005. Based on Madulammoho’s stepped approach, four types of affordable rental accommodation are provided at Europa:

  • 100-bed emergency shelter accommodation is provided on the ground floor. This space caters for emergencies and allows for up to 100 people to be provided with a bed space for up to 72 hours until alternative accommodation is found. This accommodation is provided free of charge by Madulammoho.
  • 11 transitional housing units provide bed space for rental in a shared room (between two and four beds in a room), with a storage trunk and communal ablution and cooking facilities. This is intended to be transitional accommodation, lasting for a period of up to two years. People staying in transitional accommodation are encouraged to move out of this situation as soon as their circumstances have improved (assisted through the training and development programme provided by MES). During this time they must be involved in the training and development programmes offered by MES.
  • 43 Communal units provide housing for a maximum of four people (two adults and two children). Tenants rent a room and choose whom they share the room with. Communal units have access to male and female ablution facilities with toilets, showers and hand basins.
  • 14 self-contained bachelor units include a bedroom and private ablution facilities.

The original nightclub area was refurbished as a training and development facility.

It was initially intended that commercial units would be developed on the ground floor to cross subsidise residential rentals. However this didn’t work as commercial uses soon moved to adjacent buildings which had been hijacked and were offering space at lower rentals.

The Europa was a pilot project through which the Madulammoho philosophy and stepped approach to housing were tested. In particular, the development demonstrated the practice of a link between providing affordable, stable rental accommodation and care, training and development for the tenants.

The Europa provided the springboard for Madulammoho to develop 950 units in seven buildings over a five-year period (2005-2010).


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