Casting off the negative perceptions of overcrowding, densification is instead presenting an affordable, safe and convenient property opportunity for many. Here’s how to sell high-density living

Densification is the new buzzword in cities hard-pressed to provide services to booming populations. While some consider the notion of high-density living to be unpalatable, it, in fact, provides many advantages – security and convenience not the least among them. And, for many young people hoping to gain a foothold in the property ladder, affordable apartments are often the only way to do that.

According to the Cape Town Densification Strategy report, densification is “the increased use of space both horizontally and vertically within existing areas/properties, and new developments accompanied by an increased number of units and/or population thresholds”.

“This has typically been driven by urban sprawl as inner cities went through decay,” says David Sedgwick, MD of Horizon Capital. “People wanted to live in huge properties in suburbia. But in Cape Town, there has been a conscious effort to reduce urban sprawl and reduce the strain on the city.”

He explains that densification reduces the operating costs of the metropolitan, because it is able to deploy resources more effectively in a smaller area. Similar strategies are being implemented by the City of Johannesburg and in most other metros around the country.

HIGH-DENSITY APPEAL

“High density and low cost aren’t mutually exclusive, and in our case, high density refers to the scale of urbanisation, and how this will impact the urban fabric,” says Jacques van Embden, MD of Blok. In Cape Town they have developed TWO16ONHL, a block of 22 apartments selling from R2.2m, and NINEONS, 23 apartments selling from R2.5m.

One of the biggest driving factors for the increasing popularity of high-density developments is that the affordable property ownership proposition attracts first-time buyers who otherwise would not be able to gain a foothold on the property ladder.

Says Sedgwick: “The Eden in Observatory is attracting young professionals who could not afford to buy a free-standing first home. In the City Bowl there is a massive capital growth explosion, and it is unaffordable for most young professionals to get a foot in the market even with a double salary. Houses start at R4m-R6m.”

SELLING APARTMENT LIVING

However Sedgwick believes financial reasons aren’t the only considerations. He lists lifestyle benefits including the convenience of lock-up-and-go apartments, easy access to infrastructure, security (always at the forefront of South Africans’ accommodation decisions) and an increased focus on the importance of community as compelling reasons in favour of high-density homes. Sedgwick adds that high-density developments also have transport and accessibility advantages.

HIGH DENSITY, HIGH END

Interestingly, while high-density living is often touted as an affordable option for first-time buyers and young professionals, a similar move towards centralisation and convenience is also being observed at the luxe end of the market — individuals are selling up larger properties and moving into high-density luxury apartments, which in many cases sell for the same prices as their larger homes.

According to the FNB Property Barometer Home Buying Estate Agent Survey Q1 2016, financial pressure is not the primary reason people sell to downscale. The report showed that just 13% of sellers during Q1 2016 were selling in order to downscale due to financial pressure.

Words Georgina Guedes