Keetmanshoop-Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa says contractors cannot keep on raking in millions of dollars in profits at the expense of the urban poor by inflating housing prices, as basic housing appears to have become a luxury commodity for many urban dwellers.
Speaking during the handover of 75 houses constructed under the Mass Housing programme at Keetmanshoop last week, Shaningwa said it was not correct that the housing scheme meant for a good purpose was turned into a money-making scheme by some business people who only care about making huge profits.
She said the programme was stopped in 2015 so that issues, such as pricing, could be rectified. She said it was not correct that poor Namibians were paying so much for houses meant to be affordable, and called for repentance on the part of the entrepreneurs involved.
She said acquiring millions of dollars at the expense of the poor instead of helping the majority to have a roof over their heads is not a good thing.
“The majority are suffering in poverty and I have millions that I perhaps even acquired illegally by inflating house prices for maximum profit, and at the end of the day it’s the poor people that will suffer paying for these loans. Let us repent,” Shaaningwa said.
She called on contractors not to be selfish and think only of making huge profits, but of helping the majority of Namibians, who are without a roof over their heads.
She said some completed houses were so expensive that residents could not afford them and they remain unoccupied. This, she said, was a clear sign that the houses were built in towns where the market cannot afford them.
She singled out Karasburg and Khorixas for the excessive pricing, noting that some houses cost as much as N$900,000 and said this needs to change.
“We cannot spend government money to bring wrong products to the right market. The products are not compatible with the pockets of the community and we cannot force [something] from a pocket that does not have it,” she stated.
Shaningwa said it would not be “business as usual” for the mass housing programme, as things would from now on be done in the right way so as to benefit all Namibians.
She further called on the private sector to join government to provide affordable housing to Namibians, as government alone cannot surmount the huge housing backlog.
She also commended the Keetmanshoop Municipality for entering into win-win agreements with private partners to build three-bedroom houses, which cost about N$420,000, saying this is the model to follow.
“N$420,000 for a three-bedroom house. This is commendable,” she said. “These are the people who we should give projects to”, she remarked and warned against those who come only to empty the pockets of the poor.
About 75 houses were handed over at Keetmanshoop by the minister last week.