High Rent Forces Graduate to Live in Shack [analysis]

FED UP with rising rental costs, a Polytechnic of Namibia graduate is contemplating setting up his own makeshift shack if the severe lack of housing in the country is not addressed.

The 40-year-old Namibian man, Johny*, expressed disappointment with the government and the management of the Windhoek Municipality for failing to control and regulate the housing and renting prices in the country and in the capital.

He told Nampa on the sideline of the municipal public meeting at Ella du Plessis Senior Secondary School recently that the housing and land crisis, which leads to exorbitant housing and renting prices, remains a big concern, especially for young graduates.

His renting experience dates back to 2001 when he was a student at the Polytechnic. He has been renting since, now with his family included.

“When I was a student, I rented an outside room (all in one – cooking and sleeping) for N$2 000. Due to the expansion of my family I moved on to rent a two-bedroom place at a monthly cost of N$8 000,” he said.

Clearly frustrated by the housing situation in the city, Johny said he will be forced to go to an informal settlement to put up a shack.

He informed Nampa that he applied for land through the Windhoek Municipality in 2005, way before the Affirmative Repositioning land activists came on board.

His frustration seems to be increased by the fact that those who applied for land via AR could stand a chance of getting land before he does.

Former Windhoek mayor Elaine Trepper and Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) councillor Tartisius Gaiseb informed a public meeting a week ago that the housing problem is a national issue that needed urgent attention from both the local authorities and central government.

Trepper informed about 12 people who attended that the municipality indeed has a waiting list of people who want land in the country, but lack of serviced land remains a challenge.

She noted that as a result, a large number of Windhoek residents are living in illegal shacks in most informal settlements.

“We have noted that most of the shacks are owned by the elite who are renting them to the poor. The very same elite who own proper houses make business by renting out their houses to foreigners whilst living in shacks themselves,”she explained.

The increase of illegal shacks, she noted, is caused by the high migration of people from rural areas to urban centres.

The Windhoek Municipality public relations officer Lydia Amutenya told Nampa that the informal areas are growing at an alarming pace, with an estimated growth of 10% per annum in the north-western part of the city, with the overall population growth estimated at 4% per annum.

Amutenya said the challenge of this growth is mainly a high demand in municipal services, and most of the residents are unable to pay for the services due to unemployment.

“Although the city is mandated to deliver these services effectively, it relies on its own revenue, which is composed mainly of property rates and taxes and charges for providing water, electricity, refuse removal, sanitation and other services rendered to the residents,” Amutenya stressed.

She said the city mostly operates on a cost recovery basis, which means it can only render services on a sustainable basis if such can be paid for.

The PRO stressed that the influx puts pressure on the limited available resources, as the new residents mostly settle on illegally grabbed undeveloped land, but still expect municipal services.

“The rapid migration has resulted in the explosion of the population and rapid growth, especially in the informal settlements where the majority of our residents are living, and where cases of illegal settlement are recorded,” she said.

This has resulted in a high demand for serviced land for housing as well as basic services such as water, electricity and proper sanitation.

According to the leadership of the Teachers’ Union of Namibia (TUN), over 200 teachers are said to be living in corrugated iron dwellings (shacks) in the capital, due to the unaffordability of land and high rent.

TUN’s president Mahongora Kavihuha said research has it that many teachers are living in shacks without electricity and proper sanitation.

He said this situation makes it difficult for teachers to do proper preparation for teaching as they have to prepare their lessons by candlelight.

The eradication of the housing shortage has been a song sung by all appointed ministers of education since independence, but the situation remains the same with no significant changes.

“This became a song sung without any emotions and sensitivities,” he said.

Kavihuha has described the housing and land problem as a ‘natural disaster’, thus calling on government to declare it as such.

“If we do not declare the housing problem a natural disaster today, then we are lying to ourselves,” he said.

TUN’s president was of the opinion that government should subsidise building materials for all teachers who want to build houses for themselves, especially in rural areas. He also feels that government should designate a specific area in towns only for teachers.

During a recent land delivery retreat (24 February 2015), Windhoek mayor Muesee Kazapua said the lack of housing and acute shortage of serviced plots for housing and commercial development were brought about mainly by the lack of adequate financial resources, and by bureaucracy in the land delivery process.

Kazapua said the rapid urbanisation and mushrooming of informal settlements contribute to the high population growth that has an aerse effect on the planning and the city’s developmental efforts.

He stated that there is a call for the municipality to assess and revisit its operational approach inclusive of the Local Authorities Act 23 of 1992.

* – not his real name

– Nampa

Source : The Namibian