Windhoek — Any formal process of addressing the acute shortage of housing will be a failure because the majority in need of housing are the poor, whose incomes do not allow them to purchase houses through banks, from individuals or property developers.
This was the view of Dr. Anna Muller of the Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) at a public lecture at the University of Namibia this week. The only affordable option for housing the urban poor is through the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), said Muller pointing out that one requires an income of N$10 000 and above to qualify to buy a house or land through banks and developers.
To benefit from the low-income Namibia Housing Enterprise (NHE) scheme ones monthly income should be between N$5 000 and N$ 20 000. However, the Shack Dweller Federation of Namibia's saving scheme caters for people with an income below N$2 000 and members can qualify for a loan of N$25 000 to build a single room dwelling.
Housing, especially in urban areas in Namibia has been a thorny issue, with only the minority elites able to acquire land and formal houses. This situation has been aggravated by land scarcity, rural-urban migration, while others blame it on the slow delivery of serviced land by municipalities.
Before independence, according to Muller, there were neither corrugated iron shacks nor matchbox shacks behind houses in Windhoek. Today, Windhoek is growing rapidly, especially the informal settlements in the north and western parts of the city. Muller says according to data provided by the Community Land Information Programme (CLIP), there are 137 000 informal settlements in Namibia with a population of an estimated 120 000 households, that earn an average income of N$885.10 per month.
The Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia is an affiliate of Shack Dwellers International. Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) is a network of community-based organisations of the urban poor in 33 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The Namibian federation has 635 saving schemes involving 20 000 households, who have managed to save over N$10 million by June 2012, while 5 000 households have accessed security of land tenure, and 3100 households have built their own houses, according to Elizabeth Amakali of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia.
Despite those achievements, the federation is still faced with challenges such as lack of land delivery from local authorities, given the fact that members service the land themselves. Members also end up being in arrears after building their houses, given their low incomes and subsidies.