A place to call home

Residents in the north are using a revolving fund to raise money for low-cost housing on minimally serviced erven.

18 September 2019 | Infrastructure

Low-income residents in Oshakati and Okahao are paving the way to becoming homeowners as part of an innovative low-cost housing project.

At Okahao, more than N$1.2 million has been paid into a revolving fund by registered beneficiaries preparing to become the owners of minimally serviced plots.

More than 700 plots are planned, with 300 already surveyed and township proclamations under way.

In Oshakati, 90 registered clients are paying off their plots, and once finalised in early 2020, their records will be submitted for processing their title deeds.

These activities form part of a programme for the provision of low-cost land for housing, which aims to develop affordable residential plots to make the informal settlements redundant.

An urban development expert earlier this year said addressing Namibia's housing crisis would require a shift in focus to speed up the process of land delivery and easing the requirements related to this.

There is a need for a “complete paradigm shift” in the current approach to urban design, the expert said.

The low-cost land for housing programme is being driven by two private non-profit organisations, namely Development Workshop Namibia (DWN) and the Namibia Chamber of Environment (NCE).

The first erven were pegged earlier this year after the councils of Oshakati, Okahao and Karibib agreed to provide free land.

The programme is based on research which showed that a lack of affordable land, and not housing, is at the heart of Namibia's housing crisis in urban areas and the continued growth of informal settlements.

Last year, Karibib council CEO Lesley Grand Goroseb told Namibian Sun that the town council agreed to provide free erven to the project because it promised to be an effective solution to a growing, and mostly unaddressed, problem.

“I think the initiative by the government was supposed to be mass [land] servicing, not mass housing. We need to concentrate on bulk infrastructure upgrades and provision of basic services towards housing the poor.”

It is estimated that around 12 000 shacks are erected each year in Namibia's towns. In contrast to informal settlements, these new low-income residential areas are well planned and can be easily upgraded with sewer systems and electricity grids. The main objective of the programme is to provide the foundation for planned urban expansion.

Problem solving

The DWN this week said the project site in Oshakati has now been serviced with water connections and access roads.

With input from the Oshakati town council's engineering teams, who assisted with the plans, purchase of materials, digging of trenches and installation of pipes, construction costs were significantly reduced.

As a result, plots on this project site will cost the beneficiaries N$10 000, as the programme is designed to sell all plots at cost price.

Ninety Oshakati clients have begun paying off their erven and these contributions have allowed for the purchase of all materials for the water reticulation system. The Oshakati town council contributed further with labour costs and an excavator.

It is expected payments will be completed by early 2020, when the processing of title deeds can begin.

One of the conditions is that the new owners may not sell their plots for seven years to avoid land speculation.

Big plans

Okahao is the biggest of the three current project sites, with more than 700 planned erven, of which 300 have been surveyed.

The beneficiaries of this project have to date paid more than N$1.2 million into the local revolving fund.

DWN said it is expected that by next month, the amount will be large enough to pay the contractor for the water reticulation system.

Township proclamation is also under way.

At Karibib, the first 305 erven were pegged by June. More than 400 residents have registered. The township application is also under way.

The project team said extremely hard rock surfaces delayed trench excavation for the water reticulation system but support from the local mine is expected this month.

Meanwhile, the DWN has presented the programme to the councils of Walvis Bay and Omaruru.

New ideas

Plot owners will be allowed to initially build temporary structures with improvised materials (such as corrugated iron), but must initiate construction with bricks within a year. The scheme is exclusively for low-income and first-time buyers and all applications are carefully vetted.

The programme framework ensures that the new neighbourhoods can be upgraded with additional services in the future.

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