• October 22nd, 2020

Editorial - Urban poor need decent houses

Access to residential land and being able to become proud homeowners in urban and peri-urban areas where the masses live in matchbox shacks without basic services such as running water and electricity should not be politicised by politicians primarily preoccupied with leaving behind a legacy. 

There is nothing wrong leaving behind a political legacy but how this is achieved should not be hurried but it should be thoroughly thought out.
It is a mockery of social justice that houses have been constructed but they remain unoccupied because the people for whom they were built cannot occupy them on grounds of affordability and other bureaucratic challenges. 

Namibia is characterised by a small population but is endowed with huge swathes of land, in other words it is sparsely populated. The majority of urban poor are without plots, unable to afford land and they live in informal settlements in low-income areas. To name a few: Havana, Greenwell Matongo, Goreangab, Ombili, Hakahana, Mix informal settlement, Five Rand, Ndama, Kehemu, Kaisosi, Sauyemwa and Choto whose inhabitants have no formal land tenure that unlocks access to loans. 

In 2018, about 40% of our population of 2.5 million were crammed like sardines into shacks that are fire-prone because they have no fire hydrants and whose close proximity is compounded by the absence of roads that would allow for easy access by emergency fire engines to swiftly navigate through such shack density to reach spreading fires. 
Shack-dwellers in Namibia, the majority of them low-income earners such as security guards, vegetable vendors, kapana vendors, shop employees and cleaners are excluded from the formalised housing market in part because the housing model excludes this segment of the workforce. 

We need an innovative and inclusive housing model that would cater for low-income earners. One such example is the highly lauded model that enabled low-income groups in Kenya to become proud house owners that saw Kenya address its pressing housing needs.  We need strong political will to formulate policies so that low-income groups can access land though a fast-tracked scheme. We need a housing model that will allow security guards, cleaners and the like to access residential land set aside and acquired through preferential, low-interest loans. The lack of political will, on the one hand, and profiteering at all costs on the part of banks, on the other hand, have colluded to deprive ultra-low-income earners of decent houses. We need inclusive, revolutionary solutions that avail affordable houses for the mass market. Policymakers should remove all barriers that make it extremely hard to own serviced plots where a house could even be developed step by step. 

Subsidies are required to enable low-income earners to own residential land on which they could build houses. Home ownership should not be tied to political legacy.  One factor that has contributed to the Namibian housing crisis and the proliferation of shacks is speculators buying swathes of land they develop with the intention to resell and the lack of proper urban planning and the absence of innovation. 
Namibia as a matter of urgency needs a newer housing model for the working poor who also need proper houses with running water with proper sanitation. Promises to house the long-suffering masses should not only be a campaign gimmick to hoodwink the masses, who want to see tangible results and not hollow promises.

Staff Reporter
2020-07-31 10:42:08 | 2 months ago

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