Swakopmund — Local authorities have the capacity to provide cheaper houses that could resolve the nationwide housing crisis that prevents first-time homebuyers and many young professionals from owning houses.
Glaring disparities between the supply and demand for housing is one of the key factors hampering policy-makers from meeting the increasing housing demand.
As the second most urbanised region in the country with massive housing shortages, stakeholders in the Erongo Region hosted a two-day retreat in Swakopmund to discuss this burning issue, including the mushrooming of informal settlements.
During the opening session of the retreat, the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Jerry Ekandjo, said stakeholders needed to address this persistent imbalance to fullyunleash the full potential of land distribution, the housing market and its contribution to the economy.
"If we focus on these crucial issues we will be able to address the social aspects related to sustainable and affordable development," Ekandjo said. Ekandjo further said he is disturbed by the housing delivery process and the procedures followed in securing land for housing.
"This phenomenon needs rationalisation and an outright overhauling if realistic [targets] are to be realised. It is these issues that we are contending with," said the minister.
According to Ekandjo, the persistent housing backlog is often influenced by high real estate prices and home financing costs relative to income, creating a wider affordability gap, as well as complex land development and procedures that hinder low to middle income housing provision.
"Despite the fact that housing has been one of the main objectives of the past three National Development Plans, the delivery rates have been below expectations with a total current backlog estimated at 92 000 houses. The figure is drawn from NDP3 in 2008 which reflected the need of 80 000 houses with an estimated 3 000 annual increase," he said.
"When one considers the situation on the ground, particularly in informal settlements throughout Namibia, the exodus from rural areas to towns appears staggering. The ministry's involvement in direct provision of housing is focused on low-cost housing - an area in which we devote our operational budget to institutions carrying out construction, and the capital budget to infrastructural development.
"The central government has partnered with private local and regional institutions in an effort to improve housing delivery. Despite these efforts the housing challenges continue to persist as the pace of housing delivery has slowed down in relation to the growing urban population that expands at a rate of more than 3.4 percent per annum," he said.
Ekandjo also said his ministry's budget for the current financial year, earmarked for the Build Together Programme stands at N$80 million to build at least 1 300 houses, while N$25 million has been allocated to the Namibian Housing Enterprise (NHE).
At least N$3.5 was allocated to the non-governmental organisation, the Shack Dwellers Association (SDA).
Also since the introduction of the decentralisation programme in 1999, some 9 609 houses have been built, while some regional and local authority councils still need to complete 3 771 houses.
Speaking at the same event, the Governor of the Erongo Region, Kleophas Mutjavikua, said the housing issue is indeed of great concern to regional leaders, especially in light of the escalation of informal settlements in the region.
The retreat is expected to pave the way to address the lack of affordable housing in the region.