Swakop Tackles Backyard Shack Problem

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By Charles Tjatindi

SWAKOPMUND

The Municipality of Swakopmund has stepped up efforts in its fight against the mushrooming of shacks at the town.

At its last ordinary meeting the Swakopmund Town Council approved plans aimed at reducing the shack phenomenon on its doorstep. It is estimated that every second erf in Swakopmund’s Mondesa residential suburb has one informal accommodation structure erected in its backyard.

The Town Council has to this end set up a working committee with the objective of developing policy guidelines for the gradual phasing out of shacks. The phasing out of shacks has emerged as a top priority for the council. Most of the town’s residents, especially those hailing from the Mondesa residential area, are either unemployed or low-income earners, which makes the phasing out of shacks difficult.

The working committee has been tasked with identifying the best approaches to the situation, with options of either totally eliminating shacks or reducing their numbers in an attempt to make them safer and habitable.

In consultation with property owners as well as the shack dwellers, the working committee would determine the number of shacks permissible per erf, and agree on acceptable or suitable building materials for shacks. Such consideration would take health, safety and security concerns into consideration.

The committee, according to the council minutes, will also investigate incentive schemes for property owners to induce them to get rid of shacks and also to enable them to build decent rental units for their tenants.

Currently the shacks serve as both an income source to the landlords and as a shelter to tenants, with the latter being more secondary according to the council minutes.

It will also be the working committee’s prerogative to investigate other shelter options to backyard shacks.

Such options would include the Progressive Development Area, assuming that the elimination or reduction of shacks may result in an increased demand for residential land. As some shacks are used for business, the working committee will also investigate alternatives for these projects.

The absence of a formal and universal definition of what constitutes a shack has seemingly been hampering council’s efforts in controlling the mushrooming of shacks. The town council has therefore also tasked its working committee to come up with such a definition, which would be used for reference during deliberations.

The public will, in due course, be informed at a public meeting on the mandate and powers of this committee, after which deliberations will commence.

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