Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein says local authorities must make visible efforts to make land available, even if it means channelling unallocated funds and funds allocated to less important projects to the mass urban land-servicing project.
Schlettwein, in a consultative meeting held last Thursday at the Walvis Bay Municipality, said municipalities and local authorities must realise the importance of this project and should scrutinise their budgets, as a lot is riding on the success of this project.
Referring to the agreement reached between the government and the Affirmative Reposition (AR) group, Schlettwein highlighted the availability and affordability of land as the most important aspect of the project, among the many pertinent issues covered in the agreement. Following the seminal agreement between President Hage Geingob and the AR group, the latter aborted their plans to illegally occupy land countrywide after government reaffirmed its commitment to service 200,000 residential erven across the country – with the focus on Walvis Bay, Oshakati and Windhoek in the pilot phase.
“The bottom line of what we will be able to deliver in the shortest possible time depends on the financial wherewithal to finance the identified units, supported by the voluntary support from civil society and the business community.
Let me therefore seize this opportunity to indicate that the price dynamics in the real estate and housing sectors have not lent themselves to the affordability range, for especially the low and middle-income earners.
“The price overshooting has outstripped wage improvements, rendering an average house rocketing out of affordability range of low-income earners,” the minister explained. Schlettwein said the provision of serviced erven is the principal objective of the agreement, but that is only one step, albeit of pivotal importance, in the country’s quest to satisfy the basic need for decent shelter for all citizens.
“I seek to gain appreciation on the available land and the cost implications. These cost issues range from the acquisition of land, the professional service, bulk infrastructure and the actual cost of land servicing,” he added.
The minister then applauded Walvis Bay Municipality for committing to ongoing land servicing projects and also completing the planning of new residential extensions in the areas of Narraville, Portville and Duneville.
“In this regard, I would like to confirm the priority areas for the pilot project under the mass land servicing programme, the number of erven that could be realised in the short-term, as well as the associated financial implications, including the municipality’s own budget for these projects,” he said. To the extent public finances allow, government would prioritise budgetary allocations to the land-servicing programme, he indicated.
Government set aside N$971 million in the current budget for land servicing and improvement of sanitation infrastructure, with similar but scaled up allocations over the Medium Term Economic Framework.
“These allocated amounts underpin the government’s stern commitment to serviced land delivery, which should be strengthened going forward. I thus urge Walvis Bay Municipality and other local authorities to make deliberate efforts to target resources to land servicing,” he said.