Keetmanshoop feels sting of soaring rents

Keetmanshoop-With Keetmanshoop having experienced significant growth and development over the last few years, most residents here are now unable to find decent accommodation to rent, unlike a few years ago.

The sharp increases in rent for formal housing has also resulted in steep rental increases for backyard shacks where homeowners put up shacks for residents to rent.

Many homeowners have started erecting shacks for rent because shacks are now in high demand, and residents are willing to rent almost anywhere, as long as they have a roof over their head and access to water and electricity.

When New Era conducted a random survey from one residential area to another, the demand for housing became quite evident.

The desperation of many residents, who the indicated they had no choice but to pay these exorbitant prices because of limited options, was also apparent.

At one of the rental facilities in Kronlein, mainly catering to students, the price for renting a shack was N$800 per person sharing.

Often these rooms accommodate 3-5 students a room, and while this includes water and electricity, the students complained that the rooms were very small, but they had no choice except to pay.

The tenants, both male, and female share a kitchen and bathroom, and while they say the accommodation is by no means cheap, they have no choice but to pay whatever price the owner demands because of the scarcity of accommodation at the town.

"We can't say it's cheap because we are four in a room, but we don't have a choice as it's difficult to get a place to stay here," Ismael Willem, who is a student at the Namibia Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT), said.

While speaking his fellow students kept nodding their heads in agreement on how tough it is - especially for students to find accommodation in the town.

Finding accommodation had become a struggle because everyone in the town was looking for accommodation, which they said was surprising for a small town like Keetmanshoop.

Their counterparts at the University of Namibia (Unam) Southern Campus agreed, saying they face similar challenges.

Some say the situation has forced them to rent rooms in relatively unsafe places far from the campus because those are the only places they could find with water and electricity that they could afford.

Theresia Hangalo, a second-year student from Opuwo related her struggles, saying she was lucky to have found accommodation in the hostel last year.

However, this year she was not so lucky because she lost her place at the hostel due to lack of space.

She had to go from location to location in search of a cheap, decent room but all her efforts were in vain, as she could not find anything the size of her pocket.

That left her with no option except to rent a shack in Ileni, and she said that even though she had to share the place with other students, which made it overcrowded, it was the best accommodation their money could buy, with each student paying N$400.

"We found a room to rent in Ileni, that's very far from campus. The place is not safe, and the shack is also small, but five of us have to share," she said.

"But what can we do? We moved from place to place and that is the cheapest room we could find," she added.

Students complained that many unscrupulous homeowners take advantage of the lack of accommodation and set exorbitant rental prices, which many students cannot afford.

They say high rentals forces many students to rent in informal settlements, where rents are cheaper but the living conditions bad.

"The prices are exorbitant, most landlords are taking advantage and setting ridiculous prices," one student said.

A glimpse at the rental prices show that each residential area has its own price range, with shacks in Ileni being one of the cheapest, in the range of N$800 per room.

In addition to being one of the cheapest areas, tenants there say the property owners are more flexible and one can negotiate the price and the number of people that can occupy a single room.

In Tseiblaagte, the same type of shack goes for an average of N$1,000 to N$1,200, depending on how big the shack is. This is inclusive of water and electricity, but tenants have to share toilets and bathrooms.

An inside room in a house in the same area costs on average N$1,500, but went for only N$700 back in 2012, according to Elizabeth Namises, who rented an inside room there that year.

In Noordhoek, single rooms average N$1,500, while a bachelor flat will cost you in the region of N$4,000 with water and electricity included.

The residents there say that mostly only young working professionals can afford to rent flats in Noordhoek, with very few students found in this area as it is both expensive and far from campus.

The rent prices at the town are on average highest in Westdene, where many single rooms cost N$2,000.

Rental prices for town houses at one of the complexes here vary from N$3,500 for a one-bedroom house, N$4,500 for a two-bedroom house and N$5,500 for a three-bedroom house, but this is without water and electricity.

Residents say rental prices are unaffordable, especially when they have to provide for water and electricity themselves, with some saying their water and electricity bills go above N$2,000 a month.

So what has caused such a drastic increase in rent prices in such a short time?

Senior Local Economic Development Manager at the Keetmanshoop municipality, Jegg Christiaan, attributed this surge in rent prices to the high influx of people to the town.

He specifically singled out developments such as the Neckartal Dam project and the opening of the Unam southern campus as the main factors.

He explained that the number of experts and students coming to the town had caused an increase in rent prices because more and more people had to scramble for the limited accommodation facilities, as most of them came from out of town.

"There has been a remarkable increase in the rent prices. In 2008 I paid N$3,000 for a three-bedroom house in Westdene, which is the most expensive area here, but now you might have to pay N$10,000," he noted.

He added that the high influx of people, especially during the first years of these projects had seen prices shoot up, due to the fact that the demand far outstripped the supply.

Christiaan said while many of the expatriates working at the dam have gone to live on site, the prices have not gone down and cautioned that these prices might not be sustainable in the long run.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia