By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The Shack Dwellers Association of Namibia has built at least 1ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 200 low-cost houses with a combined value of N$18 million for several hundreds of its members since the scheme started in 1998. The latest figure added to the list during the weekend when 32 members from Okakarara and eight from Okahitua village in the Otjozondjupa region became proud homeowners. The association caters for housing needs of the ultra low-income group. The target members are the ultra low bracket and social cases. While the initiative only became a reality in the Otjozondjupa Region six years ago with the present membership standing at 1ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 900, a total of 74 people have so far benefited from the housing project. The houses comprise one bedroom, a kitchen, a toilet and a shower room. The association has membership of 15ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 100 countrywide. Since 1998, members of the Association have saved an amount of N$4.4 million. Through the Ministry of Regional Government, Housing and Rural Development, the government committed N$1 million on an annual basis. And since coming into being, the association has received N$4 million from the government. Each of the houses costs N$15ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000. Each member buys a Savings Scheme book which is used to save any amount a member can afford on a monthly basis. According to one of the beneficiaries from the Otjozondjupa region, Katjiuua Kangumine, the initiative has made many people – especially from the marginalized communities – realize that comfort does not only belong to the rich. She encourages the poor to join the project which has enabled many to acquire decent houses. “The project teaches you how to save money and how to work with others”, she added. Apart from those benefits, on the sideline, members are engaged in small and medium enterprising activities such as gardening, needlework, and kapana. According to the National Facilitator for the Association, Edith Mbanga, the members pay their monthly instalments although, in some cases, others face problems. “At least 75% pay every month. We also try to help each other where we can. We explain to them how important it is for them to make efforts in finding the money for their monthly contributions” said Mbanga. She added that the association faces the problem of land, especially in areas such as Windhoek where land is reported to be scarce. Even if there is this problem, she says it does not stop the association from building houses in areas where land is available. Namibia still faces an acute shortage of housing. This housing problem is worsened by increasing urbanization, inability of the homeless to acquire financing for houses on their own, as well as unwillingness by most private sector financial institutions to fund low income housing.