Developers face 'regulation'

The urban and rural development ministry has announced a list of proposals to speed up its much-lambasted and sluggish land and housing delivery programme.

05 October 2018 | Infrastructure

The ministry of urban and rural development has proposed regulating the sale of land to private developers, especially to “prevent land speculation and the sale of large tracts of land to a few individuals and developers”.

This is among the many recommendations to address government's failed housing programme, which also include enhancing community participation through improved partnerships with NGOs like the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), ministry permanent secretary Nghidinua Daniel told participants at the country's second land conference this week.

On rentals, Daniel said appropriate instruments need to be implemented to protect both tenants and landlords.

Moreover, in line with initiatives rolled out by private and local authority stakeholders in several towns, the ministry aims to establish a rental-to own housing scheme, while adopting affordable incremental design, layout and building methods, and the pre-allocation of unserviced land.

Daniel explained this is in line with several initiatives in towns where low-income residents are provided with minimally serviced land, and are allowed to build their houses, with more services added on later.

Another recommendation put on the table is to introduce cross-subsidisation.

Daniel said the ministry proposes expediting the rollout of the flexible land tenure system, and increased state investment in the massive urban land servicing programme (MULSP), as well as a revision of the mass housing blueprint and implementation strategy. At the start of his presentation, he said the urban and rural housing sector in Namibia “is characterised by a huge backlog in the supply of and demand for serviced land and housing in urban areas in particular and the country in general”.



Blame game

Daniel said this state of affairs is due to a combination of factors, including rapid urbanisation, population growth, as well as poverty.

He admitted that affordability is a big problem and described the “mismatch between the types and pricing of housing products that are available on the one hand, and the needs and affordability levels of a large section of the needy on the other hand”, as a problem.

The lack of housing financing facilities, especially for low-income residents, was also highlighted, including rigid lending requirements.

He also pointed out that “overpricing and speculative activities by some developers due to a lack of enforcement of regulatory controls on pricing”, has contributed to the massive backlog. Further, a lack of transparency and inclusivity in the manner in which serviced or unserviced land is earmarked for sale by local authorities, is problematic.

Slow delivery, he said, was because of these and many other issues, including high input costs, lack of integrated and proactive urban planning, and cumbersome administrative and legal procedures.

Moreover, weak institutional and technical capacity at central and local government level is partly to blame.

He also listed the continued reliance on conventional construction materials and technologies, long delays in projects and a “lack of clarity between the jurisdictions and traditional authorities, resulting in conflicts and disputes and consequent delays”.

Daniel further claimed that some local authorities have “reached their set townland boundaries and no longer have any land to service and provide, requiring the acquisition of either communally occupied or privately owned farmland for compensation”.



Other solutions

Other solutions he shared with participants include boosting partnerships with private entities and setting clearly predetermined targets, facilitating open and competitive procurement processes and ensuring the fair distribution of risks, costs and benefits between government and private partners.

Daniel further proposed continued financial and technical support to regional councils and the National Housing Enterprise (NHE), with set conditions and targets.

Another proposal was the manufacturing and use of cost-effective building materials.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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