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News and Resources

Revitalizing Hillbrow, an Inner City Area of Johannesburg

News and Resources

By Rachel Paul
Rooftops Canada Intern


Safety and security are of central importance to neighbourhoods worldwide. Hillbrow, an inner city area in Johannesburg, has a history of being a hub of violence and crime. Its reputation is changing, however.


 In 2004, Rooftops Canada’s partner, the Johannesburg Housing Company, a social housing organization, spearheaded a program called eKhaya (“home” in Zulu). eKhaya is a partnership between property owners, housing managers and caretakers in the Pietersen Street precinct of Hillbrow.  eKhaya’s primary goal is to make the neighbourhood safe, healthy and friendly.


 Coming from Canada, where we often focus on individualism, I was struck by the high value that communities in South Africa place on collectivism. The eKhaya project is an excellent example. It utilizes the neighbourhood’s appreciation for community as a channel to promote safety. When eKhaya first began, the caretakers and managers of participating buildings started greeting residents to break the mood of anonymity in the area. A greater sense of community began to develop and the citizens started to feel more confident and secure.


 In August 2007 a formal security and cleaning project was initiated in the eKhaya neighbourhood. Now, a team of uniformed guards patrol the area.  The presence of security has already had an impact. Petty crime is decreasing and there have been no recent reports of major incidents.


 Not only has security improved, but eKhaya cleaners ensure that garbage is put in bins, the streets and lanes are clean, and littering and dumping is stopped. The eKhaya neighbourhood project has earned its reputation as a pioneer initiative in urban regeneration.