By Kuzeeko Tjitemisa and Desie Heita
WINDHOEK – The rush to cash in on the N$45 billion mass housing scheme has begun, with fresh discussions on how to accommodate private companies that have been lobbying the Windhoek City Council with alternative construction models for low cost housing.
At the centre of the scramble are three companies who had set up demo low cost houses, who now want to be given preference on the land in Otjomuise Extension 10, which council has earmarked for the initial phase of the housing scheme in the capital. The three companies want to start constructing market-ready houses based on the demo models they presented to the city council.
The rush for a piece of the multi-billion pie became apparent during this week’s council meeting, with the City of Windhoek countering that even though it has approved the standard of the houses constructed by the three companies, the municipality never “commit[ted] to employ these approved companies by providing land for the construction of further houses”.
Complicating the matter is the presence of an October internal memo in which City of Windhoek executives directed that land be allocated to the three companies, contrary to the council resolution in September that said no land should given to the three companies, but that the companies can do business with the public directly.
The construction companies involved are Eco Beam Namibia, Ino Investments and Wall Group. All three companies declined to comment when reached yesterday.
The council also made it known that part of its hesitation to employ the three companies was because it suspected the companies of wanting to cash in on the housing scheme by selling houses at high prices in contrast with the rationale of the low cost housing concept of the scheme.
“When these approved companies were requested to either donate or sell the demo houses to [Windhoek] council, all indicated they would want to sell the houses at market related value or to a person on the waiting list. Needless to say, they indicated selling prices of these houses – top structures only – which can by far not be classified as affordable to the and ultra-low income and would not serve the purpose of council wanting to provide affordable housing to the residents as promised by these companies,” reasoned the report by the municipal department responsible for Urban Planning and Property Management that was tabled before the council chambers for discussion on Wednesday this week.
The council reccommended that the municipality should instead continue to negotiate with the three companies for the purchase of the demo houses, at a price acceptable to the council, for the houses to be sold to those in search of houses, with preference given to people on the housing waiting list. The companies were also told to “test the interest of the general public, who have shown interest for the construction of their housing models and provide the council with a list of the interested residents.”