AnalysisResidential News

The growing popularity of middle neighbourhoods

Prior to the pandemic, urbanisation was a key watchword, but since lockdown restrictions eased, there has been a spike in reverse migration; from inner cities to the suburbs and even further afield, however, not everyone looking to move out of the city wants to relocate as far away as traditional suburbia.

“Although many people want a little more space and less congestion these days, for any number of reasons, including proximity to work or friends, the convenience of city living and retaining some of the big city feel, some prefer not to move too far away,” says Cobus Odendaal, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s Realty.

“Primarily built before the 1940s, the middle neighbourhood property landscape is usually a mix of small-erf single-family homes and buildings with multiple units with multifamily housing options, high walkability scores and good amenities which include shopping, and restaurants.

“These are typically areas where the housing is generally still affordable and the quality of life is good enough that new homeowners are willing take the risk of buying into the neighbourhood even though they can’t be sure if its trajectory will be up or down, over time.”

Odendaal says that in Johannesburg, middle suburbs include areas like Melville and Observatory which offer the right balance of urban amenities and elbow room and where investment is already being seen to make a difference to the quality of the areas.

He adds that young professionals, especially are drawn by the hybrid lifestyle which allows for easy balance between office and working from home as well as being in close proximity to all the amenities they need.

Although there is a shortage of small family homes, Odendaal says that singles and professional couples are better catered for as some office blocks which still have an alarmingly low occupation rate are being revamped and equipped into residential units.

“Renovation to existing residential units is also happening slowly but surely and we are seeing a steady and sustainable upliftment.”

There are a number of challenges however, among them old and inadequate infrastructure, crime, a lack of reliable and decent transport and traffic congestion, especially on ‘office days.’

In Cape Town, suburbs like Woodstock, Walmer Estates, Rosebank, Mowbray and Observatory have been on developers and buyer’s radar for some time now and regeneration has been underway for a few years already.

However, according to Tina Malyon, Rosebank and Mowbray Area Specialist for the group, there has also been a general increase in the renovation of homes since Covid as many people are now working from home.

“A decade ago, these suburbs were often overlooked as the domain of students and the arty set and, whilst many properties are still student accommodation, there has been a steady rise in first-time buyers and young professionals moving into suburbs like Rosebank, Observatory and Mowbray.

“This has also precipitated new commercial development which, in turn, attracts more buyers to the area and we anticipate that once the new Amazon headquarters in Observatory is completed, there will be an influx of new investment.”

“Long regarded as the Academic Belt because of its proximity to UCT, these suburbs have always been popular with students who enjoyed their walkability and vibrant lifestyle but, with the influx of professionals, the quality of restaurants and amenities is improving all the time,” says Malyon.

She adds that access to public transport is also not the issue it once was because Uber has become resident’s transportation of choice.

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