5 November 2012

Namibia: Housing a Basic Need - Minister Ekandjo

Keetmanshoop — The Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Jerry Ekandjo, on Saturday called for collaboration between the central government and local authorities.

The minister says such collaboration will go very far to reduce the cost of urban land and gradually result in cheaper housing for ordinary Namibians, the majority of whom cannot afford the current inflated house prices.

During the handover of 50 National Housing Enterprise (NHE) houses in the town of Keetmanshoop on Saturday, Ekandjo said:

"Housing is a basic need for all Namibians, whether rich or poor."

Ekandjo also confirmed a cabinet submission he made three weeks ago calling for the amendment of Section 63 of the Local Authorities Act (1992).

If passed by cabinet and ratified in parliament, the amendments will outlaw the auctioning of urban land and foreign nationals will no longer be allowed to buy urban land. Foreigners would however be allowed to lease land for renewable periods of 30 years, while Namibians will be able to lease land for periods of 50 years, on a renewable basis, and when citizens do buy land, the price will be determined by the government and not the local authorities.

The amendments also aim to make land more accessible for the about 73 percent of the population that do not have access to land.

The amendments are expected to cut off a major source of finances for local authorities since much of their income is derived from the sale of urban land. In this regard, Ekandjo said central government would take over in terms of the financing of capital projects.

"Central government has to subsidise the municipalities and local authorities. We do not regard municipalities as profit-making institutions but as basic service providers," said Ekandjo. He said he could understand prices being determined for manufactured goods, where materials and labour are used, but he could not understand the high prices being determined for land.

"How can you sell something you didn't produce? Land is the only heritage of the Namibian people. Without land there is no Namibia. In the end, Namibians will find themselves without land and as refugees in their own country," warned Ekandjo.

Karas Governor, Clinton Swaartbooi, who also officiated at Saturday's event, applauded Minister Ekandjo's calls to block the sale of land to foreigners and plans to outlaw the auctioning of urban land.

"The high prices of urban land and the land auctions are prohibitive measures for the people to buy land," he said.

The houses Ekandjo handed over constitute an investment of N$7.5 million by the NHE.

Housing development in the town is expected to grow in the coming years as more than 600 more erven currently need servicing due to the anticipated Neckartal Dam and Unam campus developments.

The chief executive officer of the NHE, Vinson Hailulu, called on 14 of the new homeowners to be patient as their houses still need to be connected to the town's water and electricity grids. Hailulu added that the NHE has invested more than N$100 million in housing developments across the entire country.

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