Smart solution to Namibia's shameful housing crisis

14 September 2018 | Infrastructure

Two Namibian town councils, in partnership with private partners, are embarking on an innovative project to minimally service 550 informal settlement plots to be sold affordably to poverty-stricken residents in a bid to ensure home ownership and a chance of a better life.

The explosion of informal settlements is testament to Namibia's housing crisis and the government's sluggish and uncoordinated response, critics say, warning that it is the most pressing social and socio-economic development issue the country is facing.

But more effective solutions are available, as multiple studies have shown.

“I think the initiative by the government was supposed to be mass servicing, not mass housing. We need to concentrate on bulk infrastructure upgrades and provision of basic services towards housing the poor,” Lesley Grand Goroseb, chief executive officer of the Karibib town council, told Namibian Sun.

Karibib and Oshakati have agreed to provide free land that will be serviced to the tune of no more than N$15 000 through a partnership with the Development Workshop Namibia (DWN) and the Namibia Chamber of Environment (NCE) and donor funders.

Oshakati has provided 200 free erven and Karibib 350.

Funds raised by the DWN are being used to minimally service the land, with subsidised help from engineers, land planners and surveyors. Because land developer profits are not involved, the plots can be sold at cost.

In the early 1980s, 9% of Namibians lived in towns. Today it is just over 50%. By 2030, it will be 70%.

“With nearly 50% of people in informal settlements present multiple social, economic and environment problems, as well as denying residents a safe, healthy and secure place to raise families, and can lead to social unrest and dissatisfaction.

Moreover, living in impoverished areas increases health risks, as evidenced by recent outbreaks of hepatitis E and other infectious diseases, are pronounced.

Following the pilot phase of the project, the income from that phase will ensure another spate of serviced land.

“The agreements foresee that the revenue generated through the sale of these erven are held in a local DWN/Council joint bank account and then used to develop more low-cost erven over the coming years, in order to satisfy local demand,” Beat Weber of DWN told Namibian Sun.

Once completed, the erven will be sold by the councils at cost price.

It is estimated the costs will be as low as N$10 000 per erf in Oshakati, where the sandy and loose soil makes for lower costs, and a maximum of N$15 000 at Karibib where the ground is rocky and excavation more expensive. Beneficiaries will be able to pay off their plots over a period of eight months.

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