Housing Shortage Sees No End

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By Fifi Rhodes WINDHOEK Housing is the third basic human need – after food and clothing. But an average family derives much more sense of security from owning a house than any other worldly possession. The Government, through its partner the National Housing Enterprise (NHE), has not been able to significantly improve the housing availability situation. Rather, the backlog of housing units is on the increase – now estimated at one million as opposed to 300ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 seven years ago. Speaking at a workshop on housing last year in Windhoek, Professor Gerhard TÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶temeyer said: “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 next year (2007) we plan to build 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 200 houses.” The housing backlog in the lower- to middle-income groups is increasing both in the urban and rural areas. “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, the professor – who is also the NHE chairperson – said during the opening ceremony. Looking at the prevailing prices of real estate coupled with the high cost of construction and procedural delays, shortage of housing units would increase unless remedial measures for increased housing affordability are taken on priority by those concerned. The findings of different government bodies, mainly the ministries of Regional and Local Government Housing and Rural Development; and Lands and Resettlement, through their household income surveys point out the conditions and prospects of housing availability, affordability and shortages. The overall housing stock consists of 39 per cent shack houses (mostly without proper water supply), 40 per cent semi-kambashu (without planned sanitation and sewerage system), and 31 per cent cuca-shop houses. The average size of a household is 6.6 persons, and occupancy is 3.3 persons per room, of which mostly only one person is mentioned as the breadwinner. The increasing housing deficit can also be attributed to a decline in private sector sharing in housing, with limited finance. The housing backlog is on the increase due to a number of factors. The City and bigger towns like Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Oshakati are growing due to the population explosion, coupled with migration from rural areas. A house, which catered to the needs of a large family some 10-15 years ago, has now become insufficient as in most cases the number of family members has increased. People have started constructing second and third storeys onto old houses, thus depriving the inhabitants of fresh air and sunlight. Many people have converted the ground floors of their houses into shops, and this adversely affects living conditions. The supply of new plots is much smaller than the demand, and the price of land has also increased. Large-scale investment in real estate has made the availability of plots more scarce, particularly for people of lesser means. Other impediments to the construction include the high cost of material, difficulties in raising bank credits, complicated regulatory procedures for purchase of land, as well as approval of building plans. Consequently, the number of new houses built in any one year is far less than required. Some people are forced to move to ghettos which lack civic infrastructure. TransAtlantic Enterprises, which last year became a patent rights-holder in the design of the Kavango Brick Block, said in its press release that the housing shortage can only be tackled through an overall strategy and executed through co-ordinated efforts by different departments of government and the people in overcoming the negative factors in the availability of plots and construction activities. TAE is optimistic that if everything goes according to plan, they will launch their first single- and double-storeyed house units in March to coincide with the country’s 17th Independence celebrations. TAE said in its press statement that conducive conditions must be created so that affordable houses are actually built in large numbers in towns for the middle, lower-middle and poorer classes. This approach would have the potential of meeting the current need for new houses as well as reducing the backlog in the shortest possible time. Presently, a lot of capital has been tied up in plots for housing. Most investors are considered to have financial resources but would not venture to construct houses for renting out simply because there are no rent laws in the country, and if there were then they would be seen as favouring the tenants more than the landlords. Promising a change in the building industry, TransAtlantic Enterprises said their concept of the Kavango Block Brick is what the country needs. In a press statement yesterday the company, which received the green light last year on their patent right for manufacturing the special brick, said there have been no significant developments with regard to addressing the housing shortage in Namibia and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). TAE has been working towards solutions to the housing shortage for over three years. In addition to the Kavango Block Brick, TAE has successfully developed a lightweight “Knockdown” concrete panel which can be easily erected, and removed at a later stage. Like the Kavango Block Brick, the lightweight concrete panel is totally a Namibian design, and has also been patented in the Republic of Namibia. The “Knockdown” panel is suitable for rural areas and where emergency accommodation is needed in times of disasters. TAE invites interested partners to contact them regarding the Kavango Block Brick and their lightweight “Knockdown” panel franchise and licence agreement, and to e-mail them at ja.transatlantic@gmail.com for more information.