Minister warns chancers, lays down rules for mass housing scheme
WINDHOEK – “This is not business as usual,” cautioned the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, (Rtd) Major-General Charles Namholoh yesterday when he briefed the private sector on government’s ambitious N$45 billion mass housing development programme. The ambitious plan is to build at least 185 000 houses by 2030 to mitigate the current nationwide backlog of 100 000 housing units and completely do away with people having to live in shacks.
The briefing session at a local hotel attracted an overwhelming response from hundreds of people representing businesses, organizations, institutions, small and medium enterprises and individuals involved in the construction industry. Addressing the gathering, most hoping to get a piece of the N$45 billion cake, the minister clarified his statement of “’this is not business as usual”.
He said: “We want contractors who can deliver affordable, reliable, sustainable and on time housing for the nation.”
The housing minister confirmed that the housing backlog is increasing at an alarming rate of about 3 700 units per annum, adding that 75 percent to 85 percent of Namibians should have access to decent housing by 2030, compared to less than a quarter of the population that currently have access to a decent roof over their heads.
“This programme is intended to provide houses to people living in shacks. These people need decent living standards. People don’t like living in shacks. They live there because they have no alternative but we must give them an alternative,” remarked Namholoh. The minister however expressed concern about building contractors chasing after numerous tenders, describing this as “pure greed”.
Namholoh said he was perturbed by both contractors and suppliers setting their prices unreasonably high, calling this a disservice to the nation. “We don’t want to build more Katuturas, enough is enough. We must transform this country and realize the aspirations of our people who have lived in these appalling conditions for too long and this [the mass housing scheme] is the answer,” added Namholoh, who spoke off the cuff.
The retired general and former defence minister also urged companies that benefit from government contracts and tenders to exercise their social responsibility by, for instance, putting money in a fund that could assist in alleviating Namibia’s housing crisis. Also, he said, the housing ministry is considering using environmentally friendly and maintenance-free alternative housing solutions. This shift from the conventional way of building houses could be crucial if Namibia is to achieve its target of building 185 000 housing units by 2030.
Namholoh however emphasised that government would not accept substandard work. “Try it once and we will show you,” he told the packed conference hall, adding that the scheme would incorporate green technology, such as solar power, and could even consider installing prepaid water meters to create an atmosphere that is conducive to the alleviation of poverty.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Namibia Housing Enterprise (NHE), Vinson Hailulu, confirmed there is not enough affordable housing in the market. “The current housing options are not affordable to the majority of the population”, he stressed.
Financing for the mass housing scheme will be provided through government grants channelled through the ministry, public private partnerships, debt financing and household savings.
Earlier this year President Hifikepunye Pohamba established a Housing Committee, with himself as the chairman. The president then appointed Namholoh as deputy chairman, as well as the Director General of the National Planning Commission (NPC), the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Presidential Affairs and the Chief Executive Officer of the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) as national committee members.
The group was tasked to come up with ideas to accelerate the delivery of houses around the country to comprehensively address the issue of housing. Although the housing ministry revealed that the funding model for the scheme would entail debt financing by local and foreign institutions, some sources believe that some of the money could come from the Government Institutions Pension Fund that has billions in cash reserves.
The NHE, which is mandated to build low-cost houses for low-income and middle-income earners, will implement the housing plan, the biggest of its kind ever to be launched in the country. The first phase will target all urban centres in the 14 regions, while phase two will target all towns. “This is an ambitious programme that needs all of us to work together. Ultimately, we will do away with shacks all together,” said Namholoh.
By Edgar Brandt