THE recent collective resolutions endorsed by the SWAPO Party Elders Council (SPEC) lamenting the high prices of land and erven in urban areas, which have shot through the roof touches a raw nerve.
Touched by the plight of many young people struggling to put a roof over their heads, the SPEC said the practice in which local municipalities sell land to the highest bidder should simply be abolished.
They further argued the by-laws applied by local authorities to sell land through auctioneering to the highest bidder have the potential to alienate the youth both politically and economically. The resolution shows the SPEC’s good judgment and foresight and the wisdom possessed by our sagacious elders.
We say this because thousands of Namibians have been condemned to being back-yard tenants or squatters simply because houses have now been priced beyond their reach. The current housing deficit should also be addressed from the point of view that our country is worse off in terms of income and wealth distribution – the rift between the haves and the have-nots is just too wide in global terms.
The other complication that has compounded the current housing shortage is the fact we face many economic challenges and Namibia is not yet industrialized. High prices of residential plots have colluded with the cost of building materials - inflated by at least 30 percent, to make housing unaffordable for ordinary Namibians.
It is an open secret that housing prices in Namibia are way above house prices in countries such as Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and even Zambia. Since we attained independence over two decades ago, Government has pursued progressive policies and programmes to reduce poverty, including the formulation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy while a number of policies and programmes have been incorporated into Vision 2030.
One of the programmes that have been beneficial to low-income groups is the Build Together Programme on one hand while the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) has benefited many. The middle-class has access to home loans.
But many lowly paid workers seem trapped on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, because they cannot afford to buy decent houses. Availability of land is not the issue because we have enough land to build as many as 3.6 million housing units.
The issue is that developers collude with banks to ensure house prices are inflated and sold for more than their actual value. This unholy alliance between banks and some property developers could be the reason why a medium-size house that cost N$502 000 in 2007 is valuated at N$800 000 in 2012. This translates into an increase of 87 percent over a five-year period and 59 percent over three years.
And for argument’s sake a medium-sized house in Windhoek that cost N$375 000 would ‘increase’ in value to N$500 000 by 2010 and up to N$600 000 by 2012, which is an increase of 32 percent over three years and 60 percent over five years.
The above speak volumes about how our urban poor are being exploited. And only the naïve would not support the SPEC’s appeal to review the by-laws that continue to deny our people particularly the youth access to decent housing and a dignified livelihood.
As patriotic Namibians we should fully support our elders’ appeal to do away with regressive laws that will perpetually condemn the electorate/youth to poverty that could backfire. We should not allow a scenario whereby any Namibian feels economically marginalized. The least we can do is to ensure our people have access to cheaper and decent shelter by repealing regressive, archaic laws.