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Opinion - Housing: A thorn in the flesh for many

2021-10-04  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Housing: A thorn in the flesh for many
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Namibia has grappled with the question of housing delivery since independence. 

Indeed, many will attest to the fact that we took up arms to fight against colonialism and the brutal apartheid regime to gain access to our land and decent housing. 

Yet 31 years, after independence, housing delivery in Namibia is like a luxury service, easily available for the few privileged and a thorn in the flesh for many.

City fathers in Windhoek and other urban areas around our rainbow nation experience a daily influx of residents with endless demands for access to serviced land and housing. 

Our cities and towns are cracking under the weight of land and housing shortages, and government’s failure to orchestrate a crystal path towards housing delivery has exacerbated this perennial dilemma.  

Those who are lucky enough to be allocated land are left stranded, bemused and faced with only one option: building a shack to be their home for time immemorial. 

The not so lucky have no other option but to engage in illegal land grabbing and face the wrath of law enforcement agents.  

According to Abraham Maslow, the father of the motivation theory, shelter is a basic need, yet many have lost any hope of ever attaining this basic need. 

Our leaders have a moral obligation to ensure housing is not a privilege for just a few, but that all Namibians have access to land and decent housing on an equal basis. 

It is our leaders’ duty to ensure housing programs and institutions such as NHE and the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development deliver housing to all as mandated and timely. 

NHE, a state owned enterprise, which came into being in 1993, was mandated to provide housing needs to low- and middle-income inhabitants of Namibia and acquire land from municipalities and town councils. 

Yet, 28 years after its formation, NHE has not done much to alleviate housing shortages. 

To begin with, it is not clear which category of people are considered as low cost. 

Many people who should be in the bracket of low cost have not benefitted from NHE housing projects, despite having made applications. 

For instance, there are people who applied for housing allocation as far back as 2009 – and shockingly, they have not heard from NHE since. 

What also confuses many is that there is no clear criteria that indicates who qualifies to apply for housing allocation at NHE. 

It is also worth pointing out that where NHE has actually built houses, the numbers fall far short of the demand. 

It is time that citizens demand accountability for the millions allocated to this state owned enterprise every year.

Many housing projects have been initiated, yet these have not delivered tangible results to the masses. 

For instance, the mass housing development program was launched and implemented by the GRN in 2013. 

The program was aimed at providing affordable houses to the masses. 

Millions of dollars were paid to contractors to build hundreds of houses in various towns, yet this hard-earned taxpayers’ money went down the drain, as the project was abandoned in 2015 due to some undisclosed “irregularities”. 

It is shocking to say the least that government could pump such large amounts of money and yet fail to see through the project meant to deliver houses to the citizens. 

What the government fails to realise is that, in addition to the basic function of providing people with shelter and offering protection against the harsh weather elements, housing fulfils other social functions. 

Housing can, for instance, serve as a place of work and a home, fulfilling essential needs related to family life and neighbourly interactions. 

For poor people, the struggle for shelter and housing comprises one of the most fundamental elements of their daily survival strategy. 

Our government should realise that everyone has a fundamental human right to housing, which ensures access to a safe, secure, habitable and affordable home.

Housing is, therefore, a basic human need. 

It is also important to note that municipalities and town councils have also failed the Namibian people in housing delivery. 

The much talked about Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) initiated to speed up housing delivery have failed to live up to their billing. 

In this partnership, local authorities avail land and the private sector contributes resources such as technical expertise and financial capital, and the parties share profits from the sales of finished housing units.

It should, however, be noted that the parties in the partnership have different interests. 

While municipalities could have a genuine interest in delivering housing to residents, private partners are only interested in profits – and this explains why houses built through PPPs are out of reach for many. 

Housing, though a basic human need, remains a thorn in the flesh of many Namibians, many of whom continue to face daily evictions as they seek for decent shelter. 

It is time the government meets the housing dilemma head-on and ensure all Namibians have access to land and decent housing. 

There may be other players in the provision of housing, such as municipalities – but arguably, the most prominent stakeholder in the housing sector is the government. 

Therefore, our hopes, as a nation – indeed the hopes of thousands of homeless Namibians – are pinned on government to develop tangible and viable strategies to resolve the housing crisis in the country.

2021-10-04  Staff Reporter

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