NHE Tackles Housing Backlog

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Taking the country’s housing shortage problem by the horns, the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) is set to become the preferred number one supplier of houses, if all relevant stakeholders can play along. Through its latest model of “Housing – An Engine of Economic Growth”, the housing parastatal has already put in motion an integrated approach to address the huge housing backlog countrywide. In an interview with New Era yesterday Chief Executive Officer of NHE Vinson Hailulu said that this is a much broader approach whereby different stakeholders involved in the industry collaborate in making the sector more affordable and economically viable. “We are looking at ways of how to influence the industry for sustainable and affordable provision of housing to the nation. We need to therefore look at various options by intertwining to make a much bigger impact at all levels,” said the NHE boss. Such stakeholders would work together with experts like suppliers, contractors, financiers, local authorities, estate agents, planners, surveyors, engineers and conveyancers. The housing backlog has been considered a critical challenge facing the country and fears have been that the slow pace of housing provision will make it difficult for the country to meet its goal of decent housing by Vision 2030. Currently NHE provides on average 300 houses every year and for the past five years it has supplied less than 2 000 units to the public. However, Hailulu agrees that such a scenario is not good enough and the parastatal needs to up their game by picking up the numbers of housing provision. “Under the National Development Plan II our initial target was much higher, standing at 8 000. Now we have to increase collectively three or four times and now with the new model we are looking at between 1 000 and 1 200 houses,” he explained further. Through the same theme, the NHE has already moved into motion by providing 70 housing units in the town of Walvis Bay and 103 houses in the capital Windhoek. These two towns are considered to have the highest housing demand due to the rapid influx of people in search of employment and decent housing. The main idea in addressing the housing challenge is to source resources locally in order to “cut input costs” by using local contractors in the Small and Medium Enterprise sector. Efforts are also in place to acquire a lot of virgin land, where half of 8 000 plots have already been taken by NHE so far since October last year. In the dire quest for housing, several economic factors continue to influence the cost of housing and housing services. Furthermore the non-availability of serviced land remains a big challenge for the housing institution that is therefore finding it difficult to tackle projects. According to the NHE’s Annual Report of 2003/2004 “imported (housing) materials make it very expensive to construct a house. Developers are paying heavy import duties and this duty is passed on to the client”. Yet, the CEO remains optimistic that progress will be made through concerted efforts to source materials locally and using the huge domestic savings that normally get exported overseas. “There are billions and billions of dollars that leave the country and this money can be used productively,” he said. Constructors involved in cheaper alternative housing structures in the country have been urged to work together with NHE provided that their ideas are cost effective and there is reliability of supply. In general, the CEO remained positive that if all stakeholders play their cards right, then the country will be able to make a huge difference to its housing situation. Presently, the NHE has come up with a draft White Paper on Housing, which they hope to present to Cabinet around June/July this year. Once adopted, this document will be addressed at the National Housing Conference in August.