Live Easy, an innovative residential property business, has developed a solution to the dire shortage of rental accommodation available to those able to pay between R2,000 and R3,000 a month.
Often urbanites earning entry- to mid-level salaries are forced to live in unsavoury and overcrowded conditions to be close to their place of employment, because of the shortage of suitably priced formal options.
“Urban dwellers from all over Johannesburg struggle to find places to live that are clean, safe and affordable,” explains Jeffrey Froom, co-founder of Live Easy. “Live Easy is a great opportunity for those who want a chance to move in and move up.”
Froom, together with co-founder James Huff is pioneering the concept of a nano unit for rent with a strong lifestyle and security element; offering the lower LSMs the estate lifestyle.
Sophisticated estate living at a fraction of the cost
A nano unit is 15m2 and includes a fully self-contained en suite bathroom and kitchenette. All developments include spacious common areas – a lounge area and a café that encourage community interaction, indoor and outdoor playground areas, free Wi-Fi and Dstv access, braai areas, a supermarket, gym and a crèche, hot desk office space, 24 hour bio metric and CCTV security, parking bays and each unit has a pre-paid electricity meter and readable water meters.
Units are predominantly studios to suit lifestyle and affordability and are priced between R1,950 to R3,750 per month.
In addition to all of the fantastic lifestyle elements offered by Live Easy developments the security element is, of course, top of mind, like any development offering estate living. “Security is hugely important to Live Easy and its tenants,” says Huff. “We provide 24 hour security, guards at each entrance/exit with response vehicles on call. All of our buildings make use of finger print access and visitors are asked to sign into the complex on arrival. This helps to ensure that those on the property are tenants or friends of Live Easy tenants.”
The proof is in the pudding: Live Easy’s flagship development is situated in Kew, near Alexandra, Sandton. This converted warehouse launched in September 2016 and the first phase of 136 units was pre-let a month before the opening date. Phase two is currently under development and comprises a further 123 nano units. The full development, once complete, will feature 500 units with additional lifestyle facilities. Live Easy has a pipeline of developments valued at R320m which will provide almost 2,000 units in Kew, Balfour Park, Highlands North, New Doornfontein, Greswold and Bramley.
Getting in on a little action
To be considered for one of the year-long lease agreements for a Live Easy nano unit, a prospective tenant will need to provide a payslip, three months of bank statements and a copy of their ID. A background and credit check will be performed to minimise the risk of defaulting tenants.
According to Huff the Live Easy units meet building code requirements in terms of personal space and liveability, and then some. “We are strict in ensuring that occupancy is limited in accordance with unit sizes,” he adds. “Our smallest unit will only house one person whereas our largest unit can accommodate up to four people. This is all controlled with finger print access.”
Opportunistic investors seeing a profit-making wonderland in the Live Easy developments need not get excited. The aim is for the units to eventually be sold to owner-occupiers, stemming from the business’ strong social responsibility and sustainability values. But, at this moment bond eligibility and registration is still a concern.
“The concept of a nano unit is new to the market, and due to the unit size banks have not yet shown an appetite to register bonds,” says Huff, adding that the same occurred 10 to 15 years ago in the Jo’burg CBD when initially the banks were not lending for the purchase of newly renovated 25 – 30 m2 apartments, whereas now it is commonplace to do so.
According to Huff a household earning R7,000 a month could purchase a nano unit for, for example R250,000, once the banks are on board through effectively using the programs and subsidies available to households earning up to R15,000 a month.
It seems therefore that the banks need to play catch up with what their customers want. Another possible reluctance to play in this market could stem from the fact that tenants in the price band Live Easy is operating in are notoriously bad payers, as shown in a report of TPN stats earlier this year. It is therefore easy to make the jump from defaulting tenants to bonds not being paid.
Live Easy, however, is adamant that performing the correct background and credit checks offers an easy, viable and practical solution to this concern.
In the meantime the rest of the private sector is showing increasing excitement for the Live Easy developments, especially employers operating in the hospitality and call centre industries. “Restaurant managers for instance, need to ensure that their staff return home safely after hours and have to coordinate lifts to different areas,” explains Froom. “The appeal of Live Easy is that all staff members can stay at the same place and shuttle or use taxi services to and from work. Not only is this cheaper, but staff can more reliably arrive at work on time and travel home more safely late at night and they have the added benefit of a higher standard of living.”
Strengthening the perception that Live Easy is motivated by a strong sense of social responsibility is the fact that the company offers employers looking to rent a number of units for their employees preferential rates.
Jenine Saaiman was one of the first people to move into Live Easy Kew: “I’m a beauty therapist who’s employed close to my residence. The accommodation is neat, comfortable and affordable. The premises are well maintained. Staff have been extremely helpful and accommodating. They take an interest in the tenants as well and make comfort and safety a priority. The play area is well secured for the kids. The braai area is always neat and an awesome initiative for socialising. I’m thrilled to say that Live Easy has boosted my lifestyle in so many ways. From affordability, to travelling convenience – I would not change my accommodation soon.”
Another tenant David Ncube: “All my life I have been living in flats and I have never been in such an organised professional complex. We have an area for kids to play, internet access is rolling out, there is a braai area for family time and most importantly we have a place of refuge after a long day at work.”
Top photo: The exterior of Live Easy Kew Block A