Shack Dwellers Uncertain Over Mass Housing

THE Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), a pro-poor household saving group which represents about 20 000 house-seeking families countrywide, claims that they are in the dark over essential details of the mass housing programme.

The federation’s national facilitator, Edith Mbanga, told The Namibian yesterday that the organisation has not been informed about how many houses will be built for its members, and that they have not received any notice about the required funds to start construction of their houses.

The National Housing Enterprise (NHE), the custodian of the mass housing project, awarded a tender for the construction of 10 137 houses countrywide to 25 companies, an initiative that will cost the government N$2,9 billion over the next two years.

Although Mbanga lauded the project, she made it clear that her group had not been consulted on the implementation and that the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development (MRLGHRD) has not responded to their letters of inquiry sent in February this year.

She said they first wrote to the ministry in October last year suggesting that they should get 1 000 houses within the next two years. The second letter was sent in February. Not only has there been no response, Mbanga said, but that the ministry did not even contact them.

According to Mbanga, the aim of the programme that was launched last year by President Hifikepunye Pohamba is to reduce the number of shacks.

Funding for this programme is done through government grants that will be channelled through the ministry of housing and the NHE. Other sources of funding are public-private partnerships, debt financing and household saving groups such as the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia.

“We are still waiting for the funds. Our main concern is that people like domestic workers, security guards and other general workers will not afford to buy houses built by the NHE contractors. We are also worried that nothing is being mentioned about us in the implementation of the programme,” she said.

Community savings have been used to secure land and to leverage additional government contributions, enabling the groups to build over 2 000 houses and to secure land for about 3 500 families.

Mbanga said prices range from N$30 000 for a one-bedroom house to N$50 000 for a two-bedroom house. These prices, she said, are affordable to general workers.

“We did not even hear whether there is land available because the serviced land that was done through the Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (TIPEEG) has been given to the constructors,” Mbanga said.

Questions have been raised as to how much the people will pay for each house since government incorporated the Build Together Programme into the mass housing project.

Even though Mbanga is not against the inclusion of the pro-poor programme, which caters for low income housing clients, she said her organisation has been dealt a blow since they did not receive funds from the Build Together programme for over a year now.

“NHE will not solve the problem of low cost housing for the poor because their houses are expensive,” she said.

There has been controversy over the companies that received the tenders from NHE, after it was alleged that some companies were just formed before the tender selection process, while others are “middlemen firms”.

Mbanga said they instruct community members to build their houses while there is also a plan to train more people on how to build houses.

Her federation, she explained, will try to consult the local government ministry on where they stand with regards to housing since people are getting impatient and losing faith in the project.

“I have received many calls from our members who said they are concerned,” she said.

NHE chief executive officer Vinson Hailulu told The Namibian he recalled “the issue of funding and the role of the Shack Dwellers Federation being raised during the Talk of the Nation programme last week”.

“However, I could not respond to it specifically as it is a policy matter that should be taken up with the line ministry directly,” Hailulu said yesterday.

Hailulu, however, assured the people on the national broadcaster last week that 70% of the houses under the mass housing programme will be of low cost.

Last month, Hailulu said the price would be determined by a subsidy from government on the price quoted by the contractors per housing unit.

He further explained that a house constructed for N$200 000 might end up being sold for N$100 000 after the subsidy, which will be based on how much a house applicant earns.

For example, the constructor who will build houses in Windhoek charged the government N$214 000 for a 35,84 square metre to N$385 000 for a 68,54 square metre, which means that house will end up the costing the buyer more or less N$150 000, a price which the shack dwellers association deems as unaffordable to their members.

The SDFN is a network of 574 urban and rural saving groups involving about 20 000 families throughout the country. The group has been part of the meetings that set up the blueprint of the ambitious programme.

Source : The Namibian