New Housing Policy On Front Burner

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK The shortage of affordable housing for the less privileged could lead to the emergence of a “protest culture”, and eventually transform into a conflict situation. National Housing Enterprise chairperson Professor Gerhard TÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶temeyer issued this warning yesterday when opening a national policy workshop on housing in Windhoek. The workshop is aimed at formulating a White Paper on housing for presentation to Cabinet for consideration and eventual approval as national policy. TÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶temeyer said that as a service organisation the NHE realised it needed to revise its policies in order to bring them in line with the goals of the organisation. “A housing policy without a value basis, or a moral basis motivated by a social conscience and responsibility towards the less privileged in our society, is an illegitimate policy,” he said. Most recently President Pohamba reconfirmed that “non-accessibility to housing violates the dignity of any individual”, a position which the government first stated as far back as 1991. TÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶temeyer said he believes the right to property provided for in Article 16 of the Namibian constitution, includes the right to decent living conditions. “The housing sector displays the most acute disparities between rural and urban areas and between population groups, with the less privileged having hardly an opportunity to own a house and living space they can call their own,” he said. The NHE as a partner to government is conscious of its obligation to be involved in housing programmes that are affordable and accessible. The idea to develop a White Paper was based on a concern about the present housing situation in Namibia, especially concern by the government. According to TÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶temeyer, Namibia lags behind in the provision of housing particularly to the lower to middle income groups. “We in the NHE are committed to this, but I must admit that providing only 400 houses in the financial year 2004/2005 to those in need was not enough. “NHE could have done better, and we will do better. For the next year we plan to build 1 200 houses,” TÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶temeyer said. The housing backlog in the lower to middle income groups is increasing both in the urban and rural areas. The NHE has therefore decided on a shift in its policy and now intends to pay particular attention to the rural areas, but without neglecting urban housing development. “We have set it as our goal that a sound and responsible housing policy must not only contribute to decent living conditions, but must also contribute to progressive economic development,” he explained. For this reason the NHE believes in an integrated economic development model, in which housing is not looked at in isolation. The corporation is also interested in the broader question of how housing can contribute to economic development, poverty alleviation and job creation. It is also convinced the deficiencies in housing delivery can only be overcome through a sound partnership between the public and private sectors. This includes exchanging ideas, benefiting from each other’s expertise and common undertakings based on sound planning and commitment. “In the end a common effort will take us a long way towards finding common solutions to the present housing malaise in the lower to middle income groups,” TÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶temeyer argued. The proposed White Paper has to address the need to construct the number of houses needed to comply with the requirements of Vision 2030. It however also needs to address other equally important issues such as availability of land and the slow pace at which development and surveying of land is taking place. The policy document will also have to look at what type of housing should be built. The new type of houses will not necessarily have to be the present “matchboxes”, but will have to take into consideration how the cost of housing can be lowered. The White Paper also needs to address how secure tenure can be ensured, how best to use renewable energy and how to promote African architecture that reflects African communality. Training of people in the housing sector, how to promote entrepreneurship and how best to provide affordable finance to house buyers will also be examined. The relationship between house ownership and rental accommodation that could lead to ownership will also be considered in the White Paper. The one-day workshop was jointly organised by the NHE and the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development. The NHE said the workshop would allow the various stakeholders in the housing and related sectors the opportunity to make inputs into the development of Namibia’s White Paper on housing.