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Editorial – Housing offers potential for economic recovery

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Namibia’s housing crisis and the way it is being handled continues to make teeth cringe and feathers ruffle. According to the government’s own figures, the mass housing project has not been successful.

Through the N$45 billion initiative, the government wanted to build 185,000 houses at a rate of more than 10,000 per year between 2013 and 2030. Nearly a decade later, and only 4,130 houses have been built while 891 have been unoccupied since the program was stopped. Seven years ago.

Namibia has a housing backlog of 300,000.

The initial mass housing project was marred by inflated prices by contractors, inexperienced contractors who failed to deliver, and ineffective coordination by public institutions. Monitoring and evaluation seemed like an afterthought.

The fact that nearly 900 homes are unoccupied while thousands live in worse conditions than these disputed unoccupied homes can provide, should be of concern to all concerned.

But all is not lost.

Embarking on an aggressive housing construction program could be the way out of Namibia’s current precarious economic situation.

The construction industry has been in decline since before the pandemic and is weighing on the country’s GDP, especially since it is a large employer of unskilled labour.

Therefore, we should consider using Namibian contractors and materials. You don’t need a multinational to build 20 houses in Otavi. Allow small local contractors to bid how many houses they can build and exercise greater oversight.

This country can still provide affordable housing in a relatively short time.

There are a few examples of how to overcome housing barriers. Oshakati in the Oshana region provided a model on how to free up land and bring together big-budget developers and small entrepreneurs as well as SME service providers like local brickmakers to all get a share of the action. The city relaunched its Build Together program in 2020 for police and military personnel who cannot afford housing offered by other institutions and initiatives.

The city will build hundreds of homes over the next few years, creating thousands of jobs. With the houses come services, tariffs and taxes for the local authority. There will be a need for shops, clinics and schools, which will revive and develop the local economy.

But homes will also offer dignity. Often one cannot apply for services and opportunities without a recognized address. Properties provide the ability to access loans and finance (as collateral) to take advantage of business opportunities.

Another good example of how to go about housing the nation is the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN). A success story that shows how even people with the lowest incomes can also afford decent housing. The SDFN is a network of savings groups organized into more than 900 different groups, with more than 28,000 members nationwide. The SDFN has shown that the government needs to rethink the very existence of the National Housing Company. The entity has built less than 900 houses since 2016, while it has received N$110 million 2016 to date from the government.

We can get out of trouble, but we have to recognize that the way we did it is not.

2022-08-12 Staff reporter

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