Housing is a distant dream for many

The price of residential plots and subsequently houses has simply shot through the roof. This status quo has left hundreds of thousands condemned to shacks or to permanent backyard tenancy.

The proliferation of shacks is so overwhelming that municipalities seem to have no capacity and appear to have no long-term plans to stem the mushrooming of corrugated-iron sheet shacks.

Shacks are a haven for all manner of illicit and immoral practices. Shacks could also be a source of disease as a result of poor sanitation and mounds of uncollected and decaying rubbish.

The lack of roads in these informal settlements and the shacks' proximity to one another makes it difficult for firefighters to extinguish fires in these settlements � particularly when one metal hut catches alight � and shack dwellers usually bear the brunt of these ruinous and devastating shack fires.

There has been an increase in shacks because government cannot cope with the provision of cheaper, subsidised houses for the thousands of people migrating from rural to urban areas.

This has resulted in sprawling ghettos bereft of the most basic of municipal services such as roads, running water, proper sanitation, refuse collection and the provision of electricity among others.

As if that were not enough this problem is being compounded by restless communities engaging in overnight land grabs because they can no longer wait for cheaper serviced land promised by inept municipal officials, whose strategy to appease the landless is to make empty unfulfilled promises.

Havana, a sprawling sea of corrugated matchbox houses made from iron sheets that stretches as far as the mountains, and 7de Laan, have become an eyesore for the City of Windhoek that seems to have no immediate remedy on how to deal with the scourge of these mushrooming shacks.

Sophia Shaningwa, the minister of urban and rural development, did not give any immediate solutions to this housing crisis in a speech read on her behalf at a regional meeting that ended yesterday.

She lamented the high cost of houses. The price of housing has become exorbitant. In a full-page advert on Wednesday the City of Windhoek released a list of people who bought land in Otjomuise with prices ranging from N$280,000 for a 342-square metre plot, while a 467-square metre plot went for N$400,000, a 594-square metre plot went for N$450,000 and a 658-square metre piece of land in Otjomuise went for N$480,000. This is just for a plot and for that matter in a 'low-income' suburb.

The mass housing project initiated by former president Hifikepunye Pohamba appears to have stagnated. This project has underperformed. In cases where houses have been completed the low and ultra-low income groups, for whom these houses were constructed, simply could not afford them. This project has also been characterised by poor and shoddy workmanship and contractors moaning about late payments because of the cash crunch.

Housing has become a distant dream for the majority whose last solution is to live in shacks.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia