Escalating rental prices in the country are a real challenge to government’s efforts to solve the housing crisis and yesterday the Minister in Charge of the National Planning Commission, Tom Alweendo, suggested rental control as a possible solution to the dilemma.
“Maybe we need to consider rental control as is the case in other countries,” said Alweendo during a media briefing on the implementation of the Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4) and the Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (Tipeeg).
For example, New York City and the entire state of New York has had rent control in place for at least 70 years. Responding to questions on the country’s massive housing backlog, Alweendo said government is aware that issues need to be “fixed” with the now suspended mass housing programme.
The Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Sophia Shaningwa, last month suspended the ambitious housing programme after it emerged that the implementation agency, the National Housing Enterprise (NHE), was not able to secure N$2 billion in financing needed to pay for the 10 000 houses that phase one of the programme intends to construct by 2016.
Alweendo elaborated that part of the problem with the mass housing programme is the unavailability of affordable serviced land. “Our solution needs to ensure that there is enough serviced land available at an affordable price,” he said. Alweendo also commented on the much criticized N$14.5 billion Tipeeg,
which aimed to provide 104 000 jobs but fell 20 percent short and only managed to generate 83 000 jobs, of which16 000 were permanent and 67 000 temporary. “To me Tipeeg was a success because in 2013 we saw 26 percent growth in the construction sector which significantly contributed to the country’s economy,” noted Alweendo. It is estimated however that only roughly N$11 billion of the budgeted N$14.5 billion was spent on the project.
Alweendo said the overall aim of Tipeeg was to increase employment through public infrastructure projects. Besides housing, additional concerns raised by Alweendo include electricity and water for which he said solutions quickly need to be found. In terms of water, Alweendo said government is investigating the possibility of constructing a new desalination plant and he suggested the urgent utilization of the huge underground water reserves discovered in the Ohangwena Region.
On the energy front Alweendo said the country needs a short-term solution while awaiting the completion of long-term projects such as the Kudu gas-to-power and the Baines hydroelectric scheme.