It’s a wrap for 2019

The end of a year is always a time of reflection and after reviewing my diatribes for the year, I realise just how much I have seen that has left me bemused, surprised, stupefied and sometimes even horrified.

The year began with the fall-out from the first attempts by the municipality to enforce some form of regulation on short-term rentals, particularly those listed on online portals like Airbnb and Booking.Com. Panic struck as many Airbnb hosts who rely on the income from their holiday rental properties saw the Sword of Damocles descending to cut off their livelihoods. Communications were unclear and after plenty of enquiries and heated discussions, it became evident that the Ministry of Tourism was at the heart of contention around the planned Tourism Amendment Bill.

This whole situation reminds me of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which, to date, is exactly what has happened – nothing. Whilst Airbnb themselves offered to advise the Ministry of Tourism based on their experience in assisting governments to implement regulations in multiple countries worldwide, the silence from all parties involved has been deafening in its intensity.

Even though the Western Cape government pushed back on the proposed bill, we wait with bated breath to hear what the next iteration of the proposed rules and regulations brings us. There is no doubt that some form of regulation will be enforced but like so many other political agendas, the what, when and how remains contained somewhere, to be sprung on us in the next decade.

Another hot topic of the year has been the state of the short- and long-term rental market which has been on a roller coaster ride and a hiding to nowhere. Without regurgitating the facts, suffice it to say that there have been a lot of disappointments, plenty of negotiations and ultimately, a number of properties still remaining vacant at rentals beyond the means of the larger percentage of people looking to rent a home. There still seem to be people who believe that taking no rental versus a marginally reduced rental somehow makes sense.

From a personal perspective, however, there are not enough expletives to describe what I have witnessed in the realms of building contractors and service providers. It is way more than swings and roundabouts. It’s more like going from extremes of euphoria to depths of depression and it comes as no surprise that the reputation of the building industry is tainted. In defence of those who excel at what they do and take pride in the end result, I have also seen some of the highest quality workmanship that many contractors would truly envy.

There is a group of service providers that I would call A-Listers, who have managed to combine an uncompromising work ethic with a quality standard that many could learn from. They have an appreciation for the importance of time, understand the impact that lagging behind has on other service providers and fully appreciate exactly what supervision is about.

It’s refreshing to see that in a town where so many contractors get slated for the quality of their work and the length of time they take to complete a project (and in many cases justifiably so), there are those who will push all the boundaries and because of their teams’ work ethic, will get things done in the tightest of timeframes.

There will sadly always be the chancers who quote for one product and knowingly supply another less effective solution which the client doesn’t even know was used. There are those that will quote for something which they clearly do not have the skills and capacity for and yet they merrily go about their business, taking clients to the cleaners with a sub-standard end result which tarnishes the reputation of the entire building community.

The most significant trend that emerges from this year’s observations of “what went wrong” is my pet subject – lack of supervision. If there is one task that should be at the top of the list of every builder, project manager, foreman or other person on a site with a management role, it is that of supervising tradesmen and labourers. Not only does it go a long way to achieving quality results and a massive reduction in rework and costs, but it is also a perfect way in which to transfer skills to make the workers involved better at what they do and proud of what they produce.

2020 will hopefully usher in a fresh approach to a market which has been stretched, tested, beaten up, diminished and yet survived to tell the story, albeit with the aid of a crutch or two. As one tough year comes to an end, the prospect of positive energy in a new year with new challenges is enough to get me excited about what lies ahead.