Mass Housing Subsidy Under Scrutiny

GOVERNMENT will only subsidise low-cost social houses for low-income earners, while houses for middle to upper income earners will be funded through other financial sources under the same programme.

The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Sirkka Ausiku, told The Namibian over the weekend that the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) will have to enter into public-private partnerships to raise funding.

“The minister made an announcement during the budget motivation last month on which houses will be funded. The mass housing for low-come erners will not only be funded by Government. Other sources of funding such as public-private partnerships will also be acceptable,” Ausiku said.

She denied a report that government has abandoned the mass housing project but admitted that the State will mostly cover “social houses”, which are for low-income earners such as domestic workers and cleaners whose salaries are below N$5 000 and not for house seekers who already get housing allowances.

The decision will be a blow to the NHE that was counting on the subsidy to make 70% of the houses affordable to low-income earners while the 30% would belong to other categories such as middle income earners. NHE had also awarded two-year tenders for the construction of 10 137 houses countrywide to 25 companies for N$2,9 billion despite an outcry from some players in the industry that the middlemen companies inflated prices and this will lead to expensive houses.

The Namibian understands that NHE paid about N$10 million at the end of March this year for the first month of the implementation of the mass housing project and are set to pay again end of this month.

Ausiku said her ministry did not receive invoices of work done in order for them to pay.

“NHE must just come to us and indicate the progress of the social houses so that we can monitor and pay based on the work done so far,” the PS said.

Sources at NHE said the parastatal’s leadership is waiting for the minister to inform them about the issue of the subsidy.

NHE has, in the past, said they will merge their waiting list which has more than 26 000 people with that of local authorities. Questions have been raised as to how much people will pay for each house since government incorporated the Build Together Programme into the mass housing project. The Build Together programme was merged because it lacked accountability, after local authorities failed to account for more than N$30 million.

Ausiku said those responsible for the missing millions will still be made to account for the money.

“They [officials] will have to explain. We won’t let them get away with it,” she said.

Ausiku said they had made arrangements to meet officials from the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia on how they will be roped in after the organisation that has more than 20 000 members claimed it was in the dark about the mass housing programme.

NHE chief executive officer (CEO) Vinson Hailulu made several assurances that 70% of the houses under the mass housing programme will be low-cost since the price will be determined by a government subsidy on the quotations given by the contractors per unit.

He said a house constructed for N$200 000 might end up being sold for N$100 000 after the subsidy.

The local government minister, Charles Namoloh, admitted last month in parliament that the government had not spent a single cent on the mass housing programme, five months after the ambitious project was launched. “We have not paid a single cent to any contractor,” he said.

In the meantime, NHE’s spokesperson Eric Libongani said they will honour their contractual obligations for work done so far.

Doubts over the subsidy comes four months after Hailulu asked the ministry about the lack of funds for the project.

“As you know, we have to date not received a single penny to start implementing the projects following the budget presentation to the ministry of finance through our line ministry. Meaning, even if we complete the tender allocation today, we will be stuck because there are no funds available to implement the project,” he said in a letter.

Source : The Namibian