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Editorial - Rapid land release could be the answer

2021-09-10  Staff Reporter

Editorial - Rapid land release could be the answer

Namibia’s housing crisis has continued to deepen and broaden, with seemingly no lasting solution in sight. Housing prices in the country are mostly out of reach for ordinary citizens, who are paying more to live in apartments, as demand for housing increases. 

We are aware of some achievements in terms of housing and serviced land delivery, especially in areas such as Oshakati, where hundreds of new houses have been constructed over the years. 

But with a housing backlog of 300 000 units, the country is still lagging in addressing this problem. During the first instalment of the Harambee Prosperity Plan, which had a target to deliver 20 000 new houses, only 16 464 houses were built by March 2020, translating into an achievement of 82%. 

The houses were constructed in collaboration with various stakeholders, including the National Housing Enterprise (NHE), the Government Institutions Pension Fund, the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), Build Together and several public-private partnerships. The delivery of residential erven was achieved at 89%, or 23 194 plots of the targeted 26 000. Organised groupings, such as the SDFN, are leading the way in housing development and their standards are worth emulating. 

Another initiative worth applauding is the Informal Settlement Upgrading Pilot Project, which is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development (MURD), City of Windhoek, the NHE and the Khomas Regional Council, which aims at constructing affordable houses for residents of informal settlements in Khomas. The pilot project has the target of completing the construction of 1 200 low-cost houses by July 2022 in the region. 

This initiative serves to transform peri-urban
settlements into sustainable human settlements that are properly planned and serviced, and will also be rolled out to other towns. We agree with President Hage Geingob’s assertion that rural economic development, through the delegation of key central government functions and the decentralisation of industries, must be implemented in tandem as a means of addressing the factors driving rural-urban migration. 

Political will plays an important role in any socio-economic activity, and it is no different to the provision of housing. There is, therefore, a need to ensure that small-scale developments, which are more likely to deliver when it comes to low-cost housing, be supported by the authorities. This can be done through ensuring that there is a rapid land release strategy in each local authority, which could include providing serviced sites with tenure security for potential beneficiaries who should be allowed to build their own residential units. 

Such an approach will also see the cutting out of middlemen, which can significantly reduce housing prices and the cost of construction, especially for the lower income segments of the market. However, for this model to be successful, a number of issues central to housing delivery will need to be resolved. 

Ordinary Namibians have been squeezed out of the housing market for far too long, largely due to unscrupulous developers working in cahoots with powerful politicians and technocrats at regional council and local authority levels. This situation has seen large parcels of land ending up in the hands of a few connected elite, resulting in the supply of houses not keeping up with demand. This cannot be allowed to continue. 

2021-09-10  Staff Reporter

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