Laager Revolutions

Its fun to look back over the trends that have driven urban and leisure property developments and to try and fathom what might happen in the future. Cluster developments have only been popular since the eighties. Before that people only had the choice of freehold or sectional title flats. Today there are a myriad of different lifestyle choices that can be made.

Property owners and developers continue to come up with ways that reflect what society wants. These changes in property uses and consequently values cause migrations of people from one lifestyle or location to another.

The last 30 years saw people moving away from the urban environment into suburbia with picket fences, kids and pets. Nowadays there is a migration back to those very places that were abandoned. There is a renewal of inner cities and conversions of defunct industrial areas into trendy loft living and urban living.

Between these two migrations there are numerous developments in property ownership. The cluster was the big shaper in the nineties and the new millennium. People were looking for alternatives to the freehold or sectional title choice. Safety concerns in the eighties helped overcome a resistance to communal living and developers found ways of creating innovative ways of adding value to a cluster living environment.

The higher density of living allowed shared facilities within this safer environment. Space and a certain amount of privacy are traded for security and a communal pool and a clubhouse. Other yuppies still resisted and held out for more privacy while still demanding the security. Freehold cluster and townhouse developers satisfied this section of the market.

The affluent were neglected amongst all this development and it took a bold step by Fourways Gardens to wall an entire suburb and become one of the first in affluent estate living. The affluent golfers soon got their own havens. Now golfing estates are becoming passé and its eco and equestrian estates that attract the early adopters of new lifestyles.

Long work hours and increasing traffic congestion lures the young yuppie back into the urban environment with mixed-use precincts driving the urban renewal in South Africa. From Newtown to Auckland Park, Melrose Arch and Mandela Rhodes Place, these developments cover prices to suit most pockets. Here we have work, shopping, entertainment and living all intertwined almost like the villages of old.

In this property boom cycle it's amazing to watch suburbs transform themselves from large freehold stands to smaller affluent clusters. New neighbourhood shopping arises with the needed gym, grocer, coffee shop and ATM down the road.

The last 30 years has seen society move from the single-family laager to the communal laager to the laagers within laagers and now slowly self-sufficient neighbourhoods are matching these laagers. It will be interesting to see how these changes continue as our societal demographics change.

Article by: Dave Welmans - (