The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Home Seekers Scramble for Co-Operatives

Expensive mortgages have forced desperate home seekers to turn to housing co-operatives that have sprouted throughout Zimbabwe. Most high and middle-income earners can get houses and residential stands through loans from banks and lending institutions at an agreed interest rate.

The agreed term can be up to 15 years.

However, according to a survey by The Herald stands in medium and low-density areas range between US$5 000 and US$90 000.

The price range has made it impossible for the ordinary person to own a stand or a house.

Most council stands in high-density areas cost an average of US50 cents per square metre.

While mortgages are open to everyone, low-income earners could pay almost all their salaries in mortgage redemption.

Civil servants who constitute the bulk of home seekers earn at least US$300 a month and do not qualify for mortgage bonds.

Others in the private sector have difficulties raising deposits of up to a third of the value of the property. Repayments demanded are also beyond their means.

Mortgage loans at FBC Holdings attract a 15 percent interest repaid over 10 years.

The bank has housing units in Glaudina, Waterfalls, Helensvale and Philadelphia.

Some of the houses require a deposit of US$17 000 and a US$900 monthly payment for the agreed years. Failure to service the mortgage payments would lead to the bank repossessing the house or stand.

The stand or house would be resold for the bank to recoup its money.

A stand sold under housing cooperatives is sold at intrinsic value hence the rush by many people to join housing cooperatives. Zimbabwe National Association of Housing Co-operatives executive director Mr Ticharwa Kagu said Harare had 2 050 registered co-operatives.ZINAHCO is the apex body for housing co-operatives in Zimbabwe.

Mr Kagu said housing co-operatives had contributed significantly to ease housing shortages in Zimbabwe in the past decade.

He, however, said the environment was still not conducive for low-income earners to access affordable housing. Zimbabwe has a housing backlog of over one million people.

"Government and local authorities have been allocating undeveloped land to housing co-operatives and these co-operatives have been servicing the land and this is a difficult task," said Mr Kagu. "Servicing of the stands includes engineering designs, the roads, and sewer and water reticulation systems." He said local authorities were offering little help in installing offsite and onsite infrastructure.

"This means that co-operatives have to put in place infrastructure on their own, taking off a big chunk of resources which could be used for housing development," he said.

Mr Kagu denounced the "politicisation of co-operatives". He said genuine co-operatives losing significance as more focus was placed on errant and bogus housing cooperatives.

Housing co-operatives, Mr Kagu said, were self-administered institutions. "They are legal and autonomous entities. They select their own administrative bodies such as the management and supervisory committees.

"The Co-operative Societies Act Chapter 24:05, the by-laws and the Co-operative Development Policy of 2005 are the legal instruments that are used by respective co-operatives in administering their affairs."

He said the Land Developers Bill being pushed by Government would protect the interests of co-operative members. "The National Housing Policy also has provisions for cleaning up errant housing co-operatives and getting them de-registered. The policy calls it the cleaning up of briefcase co-operatives."

A Harare City Council official said the city had plus or minus 40 000 residents on its housing waiting list. "This is not a reflection of the housing backlog we have as some people might fail to register with us," the official sad.

"The delays that are there in securing a stand might result in some losing faith and pulling out while some will not come forward for registration."

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