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Photo by: Joseph Nekaya NAMPA

By: Nghiinomenwa Erastus

Current estimates presented by the Shackdwellers and Namibian Housing Group show that around 1 million people live in shacks in Namibia.

The estimates are in the two organisations (Namibia Housing Action Group and Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia) 2020 annual report, released last month.

According to their estimates, 40% of the country’s population and 80% living in urban areas live in shacks/ghettos/slams.

As a result, making them part of the majority of the population that cannot afford commercial market-related land and shelter solutions.

This is due to the high level of urbanisation in the country- as people move rural areas for urban areas for economic reasons.

The Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SFDN) is a community-based network of housing saving schemes aiming to improve the living conditions of urban and rural poor.

The Namibia Housing Action Group is an NGO that offers support and adds value to the activities of SFDN.

By June 2020, the SFDN had 889 saving groups involving 27 254 members.

So far, they have saved N$32,2 million, and through a self-help approach, they built 5 836 housing units in 27 urban areas by June 2020.

The 1991 census indicated that 28% of the Namibian population live in the urban area, 42% in 2011, and fast forward to 2019, half (51%) of the population is found in towns.

There are projections that by 2030, urbanisation will be around 70%.

In its annual report, SFDN highlighted that it uses community-based housing approaches to reduce the overall costs of the housing units.

It also added that savings made through bulk purchases and negotiation of material costs trickle down to the beneficiaries.

Their costs are further reduced through labour provided by the beneficiaries in making their bricks, surveying their land, and laying water and sewer pipes.

Members usually build two-room houses, comprising 34 square meters, for N$1 060 per square meter.

These houses cost less than N$40 000 each, and the plot sizes vary from 150 to 300 square meters.

SFDN has also updated that between July 2019 and June 2020, only 914 new households obtained land- saying there are still significant obstacles when it comes to tenures.

The Integrated Land Management Institute, in their fact sheets about land issues in Namibia, has highlighted the country’s urbanisation problem.

The institute said that the country’s failure to respond to the human demographic changes through appropriate strategies has resulted in poorly serviced informal settlements.

The institute explained that there had been rapid growth in urban populations in the country- adding that the growth is predominantly amongst less educated, poorer migrants from rural areas in search of opportunities in towns.

The Integrated Land Management Institute (ILMI) continued that urban migration should be encouraged if their lives will be bettered in urban areas.

However, the delivery of land in urban areas in Namibia has been hamstrung by several legislative and regulatory procedures with many negative consequences.

Last year, Derek Klazen, former deputy minister of urban and rural development, highlighted that the country’s housing backlog is about 300 000 housing units and would require N$76 billion for land servicing and housing construction.

The ILMI has explained that the number of erven made available in urban areas has not kept pace with the population growth- demand for land exceeds supply.

This, in turn, drives the cost of owning land up.

“Many are thus priced out of the market,” the ILMI fact sheets stated.

This has decreased people’s capacity to become financially stable and grow an asset base- keeping the vulnerable as they cannot improve their living conditions.

The land management institute has added that the low supply of ervens has negatively affected the capacity of local authorities to provide essential services to these communities, as they have no means of cost recovery.

Limited supply has also raised barriers to entry to create formal businesses, as only those with access to finance can access little business zoned land.

ILMI fact sheets said the most significant contributor to the lack of land delivery is the costly, time-consuming, and complex process regarding the delivery of land and the lack of perceived importance of creating new townships from local authorities.

The fact sheets also highlighted that the township establishment process is quite cumbersome, which can take up around 15 months and is often further slowed by a lack of enthusiasm and responsibility.

The size of townships is limited, street width, minimum erf size of 300 square meters, public open spaces are some of the limiting factors in the cost of erven in the country. Email:

Julia Heita

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