Minister of Urban and Rural Development Sophia Shaningwa says it is not a deliberate policy that many houses completed under mass housing houses are still unoccupied.
The minister said the process of allocating the houses is taking longer, because the custodians are canvasing for customers whose financial income matches the value of the constructed houses. The challenge at the moment is that segments of the population in need of housing cannot afford the houses.
“The houses are standing because they were not constructed for a specific individual and we are currently in the process of identifying customers who can afford them,” she said.
Many of the houses constructed under the mass housing project were constructed for the low-income group. However, many in that category can still not afford the houses.
Minister Shaningwa spoke recently about low-income groups being unable to afford mass houses in response to questions from New Era. Although the minister acknowledged that the process is quite time-consuming, she appealed to the nation to be patient, as the allocation cannot be done overnight. Affordability remains a decisive factor.
“Inasmuch as the process is lengthy we strive to do what is right. We have to ensure that the people placed in the houses can afford them. We cannot place people rashly and remove them later when we realise that they are unable to afford it,” said the minister.
However, she noted that things would be different in the next phase of the rollout of the mass housing programme. Shaningwa said in future the houses would be constructed for specific individuals so as to avoid unoccupied houses, as is the case. She said the process of building for identified individuals has already started.
“I have already issued a directive for people in need of houses to register themselves with their respective local authority councils to create a master list,” said Shaningwa. Once the master list is in place, customers will be pre-qualified by their respective banks to consider what they can afford and the construction of houses will thus be aligned to the customers’ levels of income.
“We have seen where we went wrong previously and we will correct that,” the minister said. So far, about 196 houses of the 270 allocated to the low-income group countrywide have been handed over. The minister said although the process is slow and cumbersome, she is happy with the progress made so far.
The government through its Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) aims to construct 20 000 houses and service 26 000 residential plots countrywide over a four-year period.
The mass housing inititiative is also intended to deliver at least 5 000 houses per annum countrywide during the HPP phase. The mass housing project initiated by former president Hifikepunye Pohamba was projected to deliver 187 000 houses by the year 2030.