Housing playing second fiddle

14 August 2019 | Opinion

There is significant clamour for the reform of land for both residential and agricultural purposes. It is an open secret that the local housing market is suffering from a supply versus demand imbalance, a situation that has many Namibians without a place to call home. For too long decent housing in Namibia has been a privilege reserved for a selected few, while hundreds of thousands are forced to spend a big chunk of their monthly income on rent, among other tough choices. The previously disadvantaged, in particular, and middle-class citizens are among those mostly affected by the status quo, which has also seen huge tracts of land being snapped up by greedy developers who are capitalising on the huge demand for housing in the country. The painful truth is that many Namibians who merely want a place to live are shut out of the market because rising prices have encouraged “buy-to-let” landlords to snap up so many properties on the market. In fairness, we need to give credit to towns such as Eenhana, Ondangwa, Oshakati, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, among others, for being proactive and for their foresight in servicing more land with the aim of making it more affordable for the middle and lower income groups. But the same cannot be said about Windhoek, which is supposed to be a pacesetter when it comes to housing delivery. It is laughable that during the 2017/18 financial year, the City of Windhoek failed to make a single plot available for residential, business and institutional purposes. This sheer underperformance is a blatant disregard for the rule of law as laid down in our constitution, which emphasises the right of everyone to adequate housing. Yes, there are financial challenges hampering the implementation of some of these housing programmes, but someone must be held accountable for the inability to deliver against ongoing political promises. We are forever reminded that housing is a contentious political issue in this country and therefore, it should be afforded high levels of priority. However, there is little to show for it on the ground. It is pathetic and we should do better.

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