A new housing concept that provides "estate living" for lower-income earners has been launched near Alexandra in Sandton.
Live Easy has developed affordable "nano units", with 15m² apartments - the size of an airport hotel room or a small Manhattan-style studio - being rented for between R1950 and R3750 a month. Open since September last year, it is 100% let, with waiting lists.
Live Easy has a pipeline of developments valued at R320-million, which will provide almost 2000 units. Co-founder Jeffrey Froom said many low-income earners were forced to settle for rooms shared with other people, where the only privacy was a divider or curtain.
"No one is catering for the person able to pay rental of R2500 a month - that's a person earning an entry- to mid-level salary who wants a safe, clean and affordable place to stay. It's about moving in and moving up," he said.
The 135 units making up the first phase of Live Easy's flagship development - a converted warehouse in Kew - were pre-let a month before the opening date. Phase two, which is under development, features a further 123 units. Once complete, the development will comprise 540 units. The smaller units sleep up to two people, while the larger ones can accommodate four people.
The building - in which taps were once manufactured - retains the airy feel of a factory, with high ceilings. Among the tenants are beauticians, shop assistants, restaurant and IT staff, and Uber drivers.
A laundry is being set up in the complex; a shop will be opened soon and a hair salon and small gym are envisaged.
Each unit comprises a self-contained en-suite bathroom and kitchenette. All Live Easy developments will include spacious common areas - such as a lounge area and café, indoor and outdoor playground areas, free Wi-Fi and DStv access, braai areas, a supermarket, crèche, 24-hour biometric and CCTV security, and parking bays for cars and bicycles.
The more expensive units, which will be launched in the coming months, will also include lounges with desks and office space. Each unit has a prepaid electricity meter and readable water meters.
Froom said urban dwellers from all over Johannesburg struggled to find places to live that were clean, safe and affordable.
"They are earning entry- to mid-level salaries, but land up living in unsavoury and overcrowded conditions, sharing rooms separated only by curtains and where multiple tenants share one bathroom."
He said it was vital the complexes were close to work and transport.
The pipeline for further units comprises converted warehouses, offices and residential properties in Kew, Balfour Park, Highlands North, New Doornfontein, Greswold and Bramley.
Froom said at first the development had been funded by shareholder equity, because banks saw it as risky. "Now, once the development is operational, it's easier to raise money."