WALVIS BAY - Officials of the Walvis Bay and Swakopmund municipalities were locked in lengthy meetings on Tuesday to consult how vulnerable people can be temporarily relocated to occupy mass housing units currently lying idle.
This came after President Hage Geingob on Monday requested Erongo governor Neville Andre to investigate the feasibility of using unallocated mass houses at both Swakopmund and Walvis Bay to temporarily place vulnerable residents due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Concerns that the temporary relocations might backfire on both municipalities were not ruled out Tuesday as the towns were already under pressure due to the massive housing backlog that resulted in the creation of illegal informal settlements such as the Twalaloka in Walvis Bay and DRC in Swakopmund.
The two towns combined have about 50 000 people on their housing waiting lists.
As for Walvis Bay, half of its residents, about 50 000, live in backyard shacks and are subjected to deplorable living conditions without sanitation.
According to the Namibia Statistics Agency census of 2018, the number of people living in shacks in the town increased from 9 860 in 1994 to 28 000 in 2014, before leaping to 50 000 in 2018.
CEO of Walvis Bay municipality Muronga Haingura explained to New Era that there are currently 60 pre-allocated and unoccupied houses at the town that were built through a public-private partnership with local contractors.
“We donated land and went into partnership with local contractors. They were reimbursed after the completion of the houses. Those are the only houses technically available due to approvals from financial institutions,” he said.
He added that despite the 60 houses, the town has 1 974 pre-approved clients that registered for those specific houses already.
Farm 37, Haingura said, has the potential if fully developed and can accommodate 30 000 people.
This will be a mixed settlement catering for ultra-low to high-income earners.
“Farm 37 was identified in 2016 by the Walvis Bay council and Erongo Regional Council as a solution to relocate more than 30 000 residents of whom 17 000 are backyard squatters,” he said.
CEO of the Swakopmund municipality Archie Benjamin also said that they have been consulting with the governor and the line ministry to see how to facilitate the process.
“We have been assessing our situation in terms of available houses and will have a proper report available for the governor and our line ministry,” Benjamin said.
Asked whether they are concerned that the temporary relocation would be a challenge, Benjamin said that all those questions would be answered through the report after a virtual meeting with their line ministry.
Swakopmund last year also launched a housing project adjacent to the DRC settlement in order to address the housing challenge at the coastal town.
The municipality provided land to 39 small contractors to construct 1 590 social and credit-linked houses at the town to address the housing shortage.
Swakopmund currently has 13 477 applicants on its waiting list for houses of which only 800 have so far been assisted last year.
The governor on his part said that he would only be able to make a final announcement after consultations and briefing the President.
“We will have everything ready by the end of the week,” he said.