Mass housing implementers explain challenges ahead
Although the 185 000 low-income housing target by 2030 with approximately 2 064 489 households may sound promising, regional governors still question the viability of the project.
All and sundry fear a sudden spike in house pricing to regain funds spent by municipals in servicing the land, which the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) disputes.
This, as a lot of housing projects have been established since independence to curb the lack of proper housing in Namibia.
Initiatives such as the Build-Together (BT) project have thus come to the fore with the intention to make housing affordable by instilling self-help in potential owners.
The Namibian housing sector continues to be characterised primarily by limited financial support for the low-income groups as well as limited capacity to meet the demand for land and housing development, hence Government’s ambitious N$45b mass housing project.
From 2009, about 70% of the population could not access and afford conventional home loan facilities offered by the financial market, nor could they access urban freehold land and professional services due to poverty and limited disposable income.
Critics have argued that for Namibia to achieve its housing vision, it should promote the right of property ownership in both urban and rural areas as a means of empowering local communities and individuals to use their asset bases as security to access credit capital.
Mid-last month, the Association of Local Authorities of Namibia (Alan) met in Katima Mulilo to address, amongst other things, the challenges of high cost of housing due to expensive land servicing, but failed.
Oshana regional governor, Clemens Kashuupulwa, says although the mass housing programme is a noble idea and is in line with the reviewed national policy of 2009, he is sceptical if it will do better than the BT programme and other efforts Government has made in the past to curb the lack of proper housing in most parts of the country.
“The initiative is welcomed in our region, as we have a very large population. But I wonder if it will cater for every single low to ultra-low income earner in the region. However, since the N$45b is meant to cater for everything in the next 18 years, I truly hope Government will not face any challenges implementing it,” Kashuupulwa points out.
The National Housing Policy of 1991, which was last reviewed in 2009 positions housing as one of the main enablers of Namibia’s economic growth in complementing other economic sectors to form the basis of the core housing development strategy.
According to the ‘white paper’, which replaces the National Housing Policy that was adopted by Government in 1991, affordable housing has the potential to play an important role as a means of reducing poverty in both urban and rural areas.
Adds Kashuupulwa, “Unfortunately, we, the regional governors dealing with the implementation process at grassroot level, will have to face quite a number of challenges to ensure equal delivery to the people. My main concern is whether or not the programme will benefit people in deep rural areas. The NHE scheme has been running for so many years, yet so far, the concentration has only been on the regional capitals. People in rural areas are the ones who suffer most when it comes to lack of proper housing and I hope this will tackle that problem.
“It is a marvellous program by the President and it needs all our contribution. I doubt if the housing problem will have been solved by then, though. I agree the housing backlog will have been reduced but people will continue living in shacks. That’s a fact.”
But with subsidies from the line ministry, Kashuupulwa beams his region has managed to service land. He says Oshana has enough serviced and surveyed land.
“I suggest the money be given to the local authorities even if they have serviced land, because the process in resettlements is ongoing, as the population grows. That way, money could be used at a later stage.”
In the Erongo Region, previous housing initiatives have been a drop in the ocean, according to governor, Cleophas Mutjavikua.
Mutjavikua says despite his region being highly industrialised, it has an acute housing shortage, hence people tend to build houses with hardboards and boxes to shelter themselves.
“We are worried about whether or not it will be implemented through the right channels and if the houses will be allocated to those who need them the most,” thus says Mutjavikua.
The Democratic Resettlement Community (DRC) informal settlement in Swakopmund is in most need of proper housing, infrastructure and sanitation. There are about 4 000 residents in DRC, all of whom dwell in shacks, on un-serviced land.
Mutjavikua says although the case with DRC is severe, Tutaleni Informal Settlement in Walvis Bay is also one of the areas in need of such development in his region.
“We aim to remove backhouse squatters in Tutaleni and have the people relocated elsewhere. So this initiative might help us achieve that but will it cater for all?” Mutjavikua asks.
Already, the Walvis Bay municipality launched a strategic plan this year, which includes a N$115m land development programme aimed at servicing 2 000 erven in the town.
The plan, which is being carried out under the theme ‘Physical Infrastructure Development’, is also aimed at addressing the issue of backyard shacks, which has been a major challenge for the council in that region.
Based on the statistics of the Population and Housing Census conducted in 2011, Erongo Region, which is 63 539km in area has 150 809 inhabitants. Of that, 93 037 live in proper housing while 35% live in shacks, leaving the rest of the percentage homeless.
NHE CEO, Vinson Hailulu says more than 73% of Namibians do not have access to credit facilities offered by the financial service sector and consequently cannot afford to buy urban land and housing.
As such, there is an increase in house prices due to high input costs and limited supply of housing stock.
Referring to the statistics of the Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey (NHIES) 2009/10, Hailulu has said only about 41% of Namibians live in modern houses commonly found in urban areas.
NHE was mandated to provide low-cost housing for everyone in the country. Hailulu has thus told The Villager construction will soon start in all 14 regions’ regional capitals.
He says there are currently more than 9000 serviced plots are already available and identified in the country on which construction will begin.
“The amount of N$75 000 given for the servicing of each plot is an estimate based on the traditional cost structure of NHE. However, the actual costs may vary depending on the location of the plots,” he adds, challenging companies to give cost offers, which are below that amount so as to save on the servicing of land.
Hailulu adds, additional costs regarding servicing of land will be subsidised by Government; that is why the cost of the houses will be slightly cheaper.
The construction of houses will be done per project and each project consists of 300 houses, which takes about nine months to be completed.
There will be 16 projects running concurrently, which brings us to 4 400 houses in the first year of Phase 1 to run for two years.
In terms of construction and the logistics of the projects and application for houses, same procedures will be carried out as with the current NHE projects.
However, the duration of the projects might be slightly shorter because the process will be fast-tracked to meet the completion deadline.
But the housing demand state is likely to be affected by the fact that 40% of the population is under the age of 15 and 51.2% being below the age of 19 years and only 2.4% of the inhabitants are older than 75 years.
In the case of the low scenario, the total need of 265 609 units would be required by 2030. For the medium scenario, the total would be 288 620 units while a high scenario would see 311 766 units being required.
Kunene regional governor, Joshua //Hoebeb says he is concerned the people, for whom these houses are meant, might not be able to afford paying for them to sustain ownership, at least not considering the demand versus the age differences in the population.
“Most people do not own houses, because they cannot afford them, therefore, it will be a challenge for some of them to pay the mortgages, however minimal,” //Hoebeb says.
His region currently has no serviced land to accommodate this project. As such, he foresees a future dilemma in the way this programme will be implemented in most areas, given that they (regional governors) are required to come up with funds for land service.
According to the 2011 Population and Housing Census Report, the Kunene Region has a total of 86 856 people. About 69.5% of the population does not have proper housing, whereas 7 718 of them live in houses made of wood poles/sticks or grass/reeds.
Ohangwena regional governor, Usko Nghaamwa, is uncertain about whether or not the implementation of the programme will go according to plan when the money to build the houses is available, yet regions are expected to have their own funds to service land in addition to the N$75 000 Government subsidy per plot.
“With an investment this big, there are always challenges, which we have to be prepared for,” he says, adding, one of his fears is, the project might not be carried out within time frame as delays are inevitable. “We’ve seen these things happen but we hope for the best. Eighteen years is a long time.”
His other concern is whether or not construction and land service tenders will be awarded to the right people or to sub-standard contractors, given that everyone decries the lack of experience and expertise in the local construction industry.
“The quality of the houses and the land on which they will be built are very important. Therefore, the right people and materials will have to be chosen to do the job, no matter the origins,” he says.
Ohangwena Region, which has a population of over 245 446 people, has the highest (76%) number of people without what is considered as ‘proper housing’.
Over 82 311 people in the region live in houses made of corrugated iron/zinc, while 75 391 people live in houses made of wood poles, sticks, grass or reeds. On average, over six people live in one household in the region.
But Nghaamwa reveals land has already been identified in all the areas of the region, however, most if not all of it needs servicing.