Rezoning for Student Accommodation in South Africa: A Guide to Maximizing Potential

Student accommodation zoning

Student accommodation is a crucial aspect of ensuring a conducive learning environment for tertiary education students. In South Africa, the availability and quality of student housing have been significant concerns. To address this issue, developers and property owners can explore rezoning options to optimize the use of their properties for student accommodation. However, it is important to note that the specific regulations and requirements may vary depending on the municipality in which the property is located.

Understanding Zoning for Student Accommodation In South Africa, student accommodation can be developed on different land use zones, depending on the type of units or rooms being built and the municipality in which the investment is made. Let’s consider the example of two prominent municipalities to illustrate the variations:

  1. Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality: In this municipality, student accommodation can be built on a residential 1 property, as long as it is developed as a commune or backyard rooms. A commune refers to a building designed for residential purposes, housing no more than six individuals who share communal facilities such as a kitchen and lounge. It is worth mentioning that the owner or manager may reside on the same property in a separate caretaker’s flat. However, engaging in a home enterprise is prohibited in such occupancies.
  2. City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality: Here, irrespective of the type of units you intend to build, rezoning may be mandatory for student accommodation. This means that regardless of whether you plan to develop a commune, backyard rooms, or dwelling units, you will need to go through the rezoning process.

Types of Student Accommodation land uses and zones

There are several options when it comes to student accommodation, including communes, backyard rooms, and dwelling units. Understanding the distinctions between these options can help developers determine the best approach for their projects:

  1. Commune: A commune is a building designed as a dwelling-house, accommodating no more than six non-family individuals for residential purposes. Residents share communal facilities such as a kitchen and lounge. However, it’s important to note that the owner or manager may reside in a separate caretaker’s flat on the same property. Operating a home enterprise within such premises is not permitted.
  2. Backyard Rooms: Backyard rooms, also known as boarding houses, consist of habitable rooms, possibly with a kitchenette and/or ablutions, which are rented out to individuals. Meals may be provided in a communal dining area, and a communal kitchen is available. The property may include a caretaker’s flat and other communal ancillary and subservient facilities exclusively for the residents.
  3. Dwelling Units: A dwelling units refers to a self-contained suite of rooms internally and mutually connected, consisting of habitable rooms, bathrooms, toilets, and no more than one kitchen. Generally, permission from the municipality is required for the purpose of residence by a single family, a single person, or two unmarried persons. Outbuildings that are ancillary and subservient to the dwelling unit, including home enterprises subject to Schedule 9, may be included.

Consent Use for Student Accommodation vs. Rezoning for Student Accommodation

When considering developing student accommodation, two primary options exist: consent use or rezoning. Each option has its own implications and considerations:

  1. Consent Use: Opting for consent use means adhering to the existing zoning regulations while making slight modifications to the property to accommodate student accommodation. In this case, the number of rooms will be limited, typically resulting in fewer units. Consent use primarily allows for single rooms and generally restricts construction to one-story buildings.
  2. Rezoning: Rezoning involves changing the existing land use zoning to permit the development of student accommodation. Rezoning provides more flexibility, allowing for increased units compared to consent use. This option enables developers to construct two-bedroom units, bachelor units, and potentially multiple-story buildings, depending on the specific regulations and requirements set by the municipality.

Benefits of Applying for land use rights

Land Use Permit Investing in the proper permits and complying with municipal by-laws for student accommodation can bring several advantages for developers and property owners:

  1. Compliance with Municipal Regulations: Applying for a student accommodation land use permit ensures that your development adheres to the relevant municipal by-laws and regulations. This not only demonstrates responsible and legal property management but also helps to create a safer and more secure environment for students.
  2. Increased Property Value: Developing your property for student accommodation and obtaining the necessary permits can significantly increase its market value. The demand for student housing is often high, and properties that are properly designed and equipped to meet the needs of students tend to be more attractive to potential buyers or investors.
  3. Access to Financing Opportunities: Having the appropriate permits and documentation for your student accommodation development can facilitate the financing process. Lenders, such as banks, are more likely to provide favorable terms and conditions when they are aware of the development plans and the potential returns associated with student housing.
  4. Eligibility for Government Support: South Africa’s National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) plays a crucial role in supporting students’ access to education. By obtaining the necessary permits, your student accommodation may become eligible for NSFAS funding, allowing students to pay for their accommodation expenses through financial assistance.
  5. Legitimate and Comfortable Living Arrangements: By developing student accommodation within the framework of the law, you provide students with a secure and comfortable living environment. Properly designed communal spaces, amenities, and services contribute to a conducive atmosphere for studying, socializing, and personal growth.
  6. Potential for Higher Rental Income: Developing student accommodation with the necessary permits and offering quality living spaces can justify higher rental fees. Students and their families are often willing to pay a premium for safe and well-maintained accommodation that meets their needs, ensuring a positive return on investment for property owners.

Navigating the Complexities of Rezoning for Student Accommodation It is essential to engage with the relevant municipal authorities, planning departments, and professionals with expertise in zoning regulations to navigate the complexities of rezoning for student accommodation. They can guide you through the application process, help you understand the specific requirements of your municipality, and ensure compliance with all necessary regulations.

By considering the different types of student accommodation, understanding the distinctions between consent use and rezoning, and recognizing the benefits of obtaining the appropriate permits, developers and property owners can maximize the potential of their properties while providing much-needed quality housing options for South African students.

Leave a Comment

(1 Comment)

  • Rene McLaren

    My client has 3 buildings on his site approved in 1936 – 2 Dwellings and Out-Building – Garage & Maids Quarters.
    He wants to convert the Buildings into Student Accommdation and Quarters for the Caretaker.
    The new scheme can accommodate 23 students – Double Bedrooms, Kitchen, Bathrooms Lounge, Recreational facilities and on site Parking.
    Residential 2 allows for 10-20 & Residential 3 allows for 21-40
    The council says tha Brixton and surrounding areas are saturated and they have reached the threshold.
    Please advise
    Kind regards
    Rene McLaren

  • Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *