Race and housing in Glenwood and Umbilo : the role of estate agents in residential racial integration.
This study focuses on urban transformation that has taken place in the post-apartheid South African city. In particular it examines the role that estate agents play in urban transformation in the setting of two adjacent former white neighbourhoods of Glenwood and Umbilo. During apartheid, racial superiority coupled with discriminatory legislation meant that estate agents worked in a racially structured market. A review of related literature suggests that operations of estate agents are crucial to the achievement of mixed neighbourhoods as they can be both gatekeepers and agents of change. While a lot has been said about urban transformation in the new South Africa, there exists a literature gap on the role that estate agents play in this transformation. The study therefore explores what estate agents’ and black homeowners’ perspectives and experiences are on the issue of urban transformation. Ten interviews were conducted with estate agents and another ten with black homeowners. One interview was also conducted with the ward Councilor with a goal of obtaining their view of the change that has been experienced in the two neighbourhoods. The findings from the study suggest that there has been a significant change in the operations of estate agents and this has been necessitated by, and resulted in, urban transformation. The change in the operations of the estate agents has been in line with changes in both the economic and political spheres which shape the post-apartheid era. Estate agents have incorporated the new changes in their operations and property ownership and transfer is now done on an affordability basis rather than on racial consideration. However, areas of contestation still exist. Property purchases within a particular ownership arrangement called share block have resulted in some difficulties for purchasers both from the controlling companies of these blocks and also in terms of securing financing from banks. It is crucial to note, however, that black homeowners view estate agents as having undergone tremendous restructuring and have been the major agents of urban transformation in the new South Africa. Residential racial mixing has not been followed by racial integration, a view that is shared by estate agents and black homeowners, but neighbourhoods are thought to be fairly harmonious.