11/01/2018 12:21 GMT | Updated 11/01/2018 15:13 GMT

Want To Rent A Back Room? There's An App For That

A new social-housing app bridges the gap between backyard tenants and homeowners in informal settlements.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters

A new rental-housing app, developed by local property developers, is connecting homeowners in townships with potential tenants for their backyard rooms.

This is a response to the massive informal rental market in South Africa.

The Indlu app, which is free to download, lets homeowners register their rooms on the app, which prospective tenants are then able to bid on. Payment then occurs through the app directly, or via paypoints located at nearby Shoprite and other selected stores.

But the app is more than just a letting app, explains Cobus Truter from Melana Developments –– whose team developed the idea.

Owners are also able to work with Melana to develop the backyard room from a lean-to "shack" structure into a brick-and-mortar dwelling –– that the owner contributes to paying for by entering into a rental share with Indlu.

"In December, we made history, when the first backyard unit was let through an app and rent paid at Shoprite, similar to buying airtime," Truter told HuffPost, "Since launching publicly in December with our Beta version of the app, we have successfully processed multiple rental payments and our first client already qualified for a property-upgrade investment.

"As opposed to normal shacks built in backyards that provide many homeowners with an income, clients qualify through the app to enter into agreements in which we build the informal structure into something like a small multistorey apartment building."

One of the first home to be given the Indlu upgrade

"We then split the rental for the period we engage in, which is normally over five years, wherafter the full rental amount is paid to the owner.

"They then own the asset that has considerably increased in value, their income has increased significantly, and critically needed rental housing is provided to the community. On top of this, we are creating a healthy return on investment during the five-year engagement period.

"We believe that the only way in which the significant housing backlog can be addressed is through a for-profit, sustainable business model. Following the successful pilot, Melana is now extending investment opportunity to the public sector," Truter said.

The idea came about after Truter's company built a shopping centre in Kaalfontein in the Tembisa township, and developed a close relationship with the community, gaining invaluable insight into the market.

"Every single person that owns a piece of land, either bought or granted, can get an income from their property. We want to help them do that," he says.

The app only works in Tembisa at the moment, but the team is currently engaged in talks with people in similar areas around Cape Town, to take the initiative further.

Check out the app in the Google Play Store.