Property Flash


May 17 2024 18:00

Paul Jackson, CEO and founder of TUHF looks back on a fulfilling 20 years at the helm of the commercial property finance group and explains how TUHF is set for stellar success going forward.

TUHF hasn’t had it easy trying to raise capital so that previously disadvantaged micro-to-small developers can make magic. But the urban financier has worked diligently and managed many challenges in the past 21 years under the stewardship of CEO Paul Jackson.

Over this period, TUHF has financed more than 50,000 residential units and injected more than R8.3bn into urban housing, with a focus on inner cities.

TUHF is set to roll out its expansion strategy as it addresses the evolving demand for affordable housing across South Africa in inner cities, as well as in townships.

“I’ve been in development finance all my life. After working at the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), I entered the Johannesburg Housing Company (JHC) in 1999. As the new millennium dawned, downtown Johannesburg was truly pumping. It was beset with crime and grime but its pulse was there. Unfortunately people weren’t lending in the inner city. I saw a huge gap in the market and got to work,” Jackson says.

He worked as operations manager at JHC before founding TUHF in June 2003. TUHF is a specialised commercial property finance company. Its initial niche was inner cities and rental housing finance. TUHF started by lending throughout Gauteng and then set up a branch office in Durban. Today it has a presence in 11 of SA’s metropolitan areas (metros), with offices in seven of them, and offers services in another four.

There are also plans for TUHF to expand into the rest of the continent, with a focus on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. It wants to gain a footprint in SADC countries, such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini and Lesotho, over the next two years. This strategic growth is backed by an extensive branch network, ensuring a local presence to better understand and meet the market’s demands.

Effectively, TUHF’s success has been in how its has provided access to funding for entrepreneurs; enabling them to purchase and then convert or refurbish buildings where they are most needed. As well as offering access to commercial property development loans, TUHF also provides support, guidance and risk management for new entrepreneurs.

“It is hard to get funding as a black young entrepreneur, especially if you can’t speak English which is why TUHF was formed,” says Jackson.

Jackson has held board directorships on the Mvula Trust, Alexander Social Housing Company, Brickfields Housing Company, Johannesburg Social Housing Company, Divercity and the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance. He also coached a South African rowing team to a gold medal at the London Olympic Games in 2012.

Twenty years into its life, he says TUHF is ready to expand its ambit to help finance more projects in townships and other places, which house all kinds of entrepreneurial people with ambitions to develop projects, be they in housing or commercial property. TUHF’s uMaStandi township programme was launched in 2015.

“There is enormous demand in South Africa for people to live in well located townships and we are delighted to have found significant interest from property entrepreneurs looking to develop in those communities,” Jackson says.

As a specialised commercial property financier, TUHF has found that there is a large market niche in townships where it is difficult to get commercial property finance at the scale of up to R5m per project in those communities.

“Our journey began with urban regeneration within Johannesburg, focusing on affordable housing and black economic empowerment. As the landscape evolved, so did our strategy, leading us to extend our services beyond traditional inner-city areas to include in-city areas,” says Jackson.

“The expansion follows a well-defined in-city strategy. These areas, adjacent to the inner city and near key urban nodes, align with our market expansion strategy. For instance, in Johannesburg it would be to move with the market to areas like Linden, Randburg, Buccleuch, and Kew, among others,” says Jackson.

Jackson explains that TUHF has become better and better at finding projects which can be financed and are likely to succeed from research, trial and error. The group has also grown in confidence and found that there are opportunities outside of Johannesburg’s and Pretoria’s inner cities which compete against prospective projects in these dense and often unpredictable commercial hubs.

“Properly located affordable housing is part of the real economy and stimulates actual economic growth. Our political parties need to understand how to create the conditions for inner-city and in-city housing developments to thrive so that economic activity can be generated,” Jackson says.

Nurturing micro-economies in city blocks and neighbourhoods leads to inclusivity and wealth mobility.

In declining areas, TUHF recognises thriving property markets and ample opportunities to provide commercial property finance for development and investment. In run-down buildings, TUHF believes in the potential for families to live in a safe and secure environment. In people, TUHF appreciates the entrepreneurial capability to create well-run businesses, providing employment and multiplying the overall economic output.

“Clients are bringing good quality product to us. Our goal now is to focus on financing projects which are located in the correct areas. We are finding that urban regeneration has been overtaken by spatial dislocation and as such we need to help get the right projects built. Development needs to happen so that people can live near employment opportunities. Our cities have become sprawling messes and we are trying to manage the challenges attached to this,” says Jackson.

Cities are developed by the way they are financed. In-fill projects are likely to be small.

Financing smaller projects

“I believe that developing ten thousand 20-unit projects per annum should be a national goal. Getting more people involved in housing developments creates actual homes, jobs and, hopefully sustainable businesses,” says Jackson.

Jackson says that over the past few years, a number of organisations have tried to get investment to return to the inner city and for its general management to be improved. But the inner city remains an area of disinvestment.

“When there is a change in leadership and, with that, a change in priorities and political will, cities inevitably present as evidence of this. The state of crisis in Johannesburg is a prime example. Over a number of years, and leadership changes, the city continues to face challenges of poor urban management, lack of by-law enforcement and inadequate governance. There have been disastrous attempts to claw it all back and a series of mayors has managed to improve things either,” says Jackson.

As stakeholder in the inner city for the past 20 years, having invested R5bn, TUHF continues to engage actively with local government regarding the prevailing and underlying issues that have preceded these most recent headline events.

To date R3bn has been paid (clients have paid up their mortgage loans) and R2bn is still outstanding.

“From the tragic fire in Marshalltown that has claimed 77 lives and the devastating gas leaks in De Korte and Bree Streets last year, to the increased scourge of hijacked buildings, damage to properties caused by the 2021 riots, pre-pandemic xenophobic attacks and dangerously insufficient maintenance of infrastructure, and lack of service delivery; we have continuously voiced our concerns and engaged with the local government to find solutions,” Jackson says.

“There is an urgent need for improved management and intervention in the CBD to ensure the safety of the people who live here and the imperative growth of this vital economic hub, which is not achievable without local government action. TUHF is an invested stakeholder and committed to collaborating with the City and other stakeholders to find sustainable solutions to the issues facing the CBD and believe that a united effort is essential to create a more prosperous city,” adds Jackson.

A TUHF client function at Grazia


How has TUHF sustained its success? From the get-go, the group has worked with entrepreneurs who have delivered substantial amounts of affordable housing units.

Jackson explains that a business like TUHF works with trusted advisors to enhance its business decisions. Effectively, experts help TUHF choose the best potential investment projects to fund.

Harvard Growth Lab Professor, Ricardo Hausmann who has been advising National Treasury, made the observation that urban sprawls affect the country’s abilities to provide business and job opportunities.

Developers, planners and other parties need to balance urban regeneration with densification to stimulate the economic contribution of our cities. Each year, masses of people move to Johannesburg and its inner city, for example.

Johannesburg is a massive urban sprawl. The metro area population of Johannesburg in 2023 was 6,198,000, a 2.19% increase from 2022, according to the United Nations’ World Population Prospects research. The metro area population of Johannesburg in 2022 was 6,065,000, a 2.33% increase from 2021. The metro area population of Johannesburg in 2021 was 5,927,000, a 2.49% increase from 2020. These rises are steady and many of the people moving to Johannesburg are living in the inner city.

“We as a country need to deal with a policy and practice disconnect. We can work with Johannesburg’s urban sprawl if we pursue projects that can be scaled and are supported by sufficient resources. Ordinary property entrepreneurs are extraordinary people,” says Jackson.

Jackson highlights that some large developers have had success in the inner cities of South Africa’s main metropoles such as Divercity. This is a dynamic developer doing good work in Maboneng and other parts of Johannesburg and Cape Town.

TUHF has managed to help 1500 entrepreneurs over the past two decades, having not dealt with public subsidies ever. The group leverages existing infrastructure in the cities and opportunities and comes out with a good product.

TUHF’s experiential knowledge and the willingness of its community of property entrepreneurs to share their journeys with newcomers helps to breed success. The approval process, though thorough, can be quick, and completed within three weeks or less, once all information is received.

“We walk with our clients throughout the entire process, ensuring a robust, sustainable, and commercially viable solution that forms a solid foundation for future growth,” Jackson says.

The proof that TUHF has impressed lies in its numbers. When TUHF launched in Eloff Street, it did so at the same time as Cosmo City Developments did. Today, TUHF has financed 10 times the number of units that Cosmo achieved, without any public subsidy. TUHF has developed sustainable projects which are applicable.

“We don’t need iconic buildings. We need to deliver quality housing products to be able to house people living in this country,” says Jackson.


TUHF wants institutions to appreciate that affordable housing is an investable asset at scale. TUHF has joined the recently formed South African Multifamily Residential Rental Association, (SAMRRA). This body aims to grow the multifamily residential asset class by endorsing an investment grade opportunity which provides consistent and reliable risk adjusted returns, with high impact potential.

“Residential property in SA is an asset class with sheer and unprecedented potential,” says Jackson.

He explains that there needs to be a mix of housing in each of the country’s different cities. The key is that the housing is near work opportunities. Not all developments can be focussed on the inner city.

“We need a good balance of housing types to attract institutional money to this asset class. Some have taken notice but for a long time they have said there isn’t enough supply of well-developed, suitable housing portfolios to invest in,” says Jackson.

THUF is also involved in loan securitisation. It has started with its Urban Ubomi 1 (RF) Ltd structure which has raised R1.6bn, generating liquidity for the market. The next structure will be Urban Ubomi 2 which will be a R5bn programme. The Urban Ubomi structures involve buying loans to affordable housing assets.

“We want to bring capital markets into affordable housing in cities,” says Jackson.

“I believe we can get the book to be beyond R10bn. This year we will disburse around R900m for the financial year to end-March 2024. TUHF aims to continue to use its structures; its DNA if you will to remain successful,” Jackson says.

TUHF at work


But TUHF and other functional businesses face many challenges in South Africa.

“Major impediments are the out of control increases in property taxes by local governments. Wages and rents are up 110% while these charges up 350%. Insane municipal taxes are hurting profitability for rental housing entrepreneurs and investment in general,” says Jackson.

“We need better water management. We need effective refuse collection and effluent management systems. We need reliable electricity providers,” he says.

“Second, there is too much corruption even among the Metro Police. This has to change. Urban management is also critical. This can improve if the cities work better with the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) and other unions. Third, we need a positive election result. It’s very difficult to say with certainty that the coalition which is formed will have enough political will to drive economic growth,” says Jackson.


The TUHF Team

The legacy of TUHF over the past two decades has set a solid foundation for the group’s ambitious journey ahead, as it reaffirms its commitment to shaping vibrant urban communities in every city and town it invests in. TUHF is enhancing is market reach, while it remains a catalyst for urban transformation.

Paul Jackson, CEO and founder of TUHF

This is a paid editorial for the TUHF.

If you would like to apply for funding from TUHF and for more information: Click here.

TUHF’s Regional offices

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