THE measure of any country's economy depends on how accessible three human basic needs and wants are to the citizens.
These needs and wants include, food (water inclusive), shelter (housing) and clothing.
Housing is critical in measuring the standard of living of the people in any particular economy.
Most countries in the region, Zambia in particular face a lot of challenges in meeting housing deficits due to lack of investment in the sector.
Statistics on Zambia's housing deficit presently stand at 2.4 million housing units.
The housing problem in the country is compounded by failure to access mortgage loans.
Low incomes among many citizens seem to be making it difficult for most people to access mortgages whose interest rates are still high.
It is for this reason that Government should come up with a deliberate policy to strengthen the National Housing Authority (NHA) and the Zambia National Building Society (ZNBS) to help address the current shelter deficit in the country.
Increasing housing units will also stabilise the sky-rocketing rentals which are being influenced by the law of supply and demand.
Bitrust Real Estate principal consultant and executive chairperson, Holland Mulenga said there is need to create a favourable policy that will stimulate growth in the sector.
He said a deliberate policy to strengthen institutions such as NHA and the ZNBS is what is needed.
Mr Mulenga, however, challenged property developers and the financial sector to introduce measures that will lead to the construction of at least 150,000 housing units per year.
"Property developers and the financial sector should come up with a system which will see construction of more housing units," Mr Mulenga said.
Mr Mulenga, who is Valuation Surveyors Registration Board chairperson, said there is need to embark on the construction of massive housing units to meet the current demand.
He said the planned issuance of municipal bonds could help beef up the supply of houses by local authorities.
Mr Mulenga said building high-rise flats is a possible panacea and perhaps cheaper method for the supply of basic services and infrastructure needed to meet the urban drift.
He noted that newly-created districts would reduce the urban drift and subsequently minimise pressure on the few housing units in urban areas.
Zambia Homeless and Poor People's Federation National (ZHPPF) facilitator, Anthony Mupeseni said his organisation had so far helped more than 1,000 beneficiaries nationwide with houses through low interest loans given to members of the organisation.
Mr Mulenga said his organisation intends to recruit more members in the townships, adding that this would increase access to housing for the under-privileged.
He said his organisation intends to work with finance institutions who give housing loans and mortgages such as building societies in the country to see how members could access loans to build low cost houses.
The other mitigating factor ZHPPF intends to undertake is to work with other organisations to find solutions to the problems of housing in the country.
ZHPPF is a Lusaka-based non-governmental organisation that was started in 2001 but was officially registered in September 2005 with the view to help the lower class citizens own houses especially in urban areas.
The organisation is affiliated to an international network of grassroots organisations called Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI).
The organisation works in partnership with a network of poor homeless communities, especially in urban and peri-urban areas of the country to find a solution to homelessness and poverty in Zambia.
Finance Deputy Minister Miles Sampa says Lusaka City Council needs a municipal bond of about US$500 million for it to operate effectively and meet its obligations such as the provision of low cost housing in the capital city.
Mr Sampa, said the council has no reliable source of revenue, hence the need to get a municipal bond for it to operate to people's expectations.
He said the municipal bond would not be a Government project but strictly that of the local authority.
Mr Sampa said the local authority would then use the money to construct high-rise buildings in all the constituencies of Lusaka.
The deputy minister, who has since made the proposal to the council which is discussing the matter, said the move would ease accommodation problems and at the same time widen the council's revenue base.
"We want to build at least 10 high-rise flats like Findeco House which will benefit over 300 residents of Lusaka," Mr Sampa said.
He said the programme would also see the council buying off townships like Kanyama, Chibolya and Kalingalinga to create land for construction of high-rise flats.
He said the current Government's way of doing things is not to increase rates or taxes but to come up with good plans such as the idea of the municipal bond.
Mr Sampa, however, said the issue of the municipal bond has been on the table for a long time but successive councils have failed to implement it.
"If this idea was to be replicated across the country, it can reduce the shortage of accommodation in the country substantially." He said.
The other good thing about the proposal is that by constructing high-rise buildings does not require large portions of land.
There is need for the stakeholders to find ways and means to empower the citizens with houses because this will contribute to the reduction in the cost of living for people in the country and in the process cut down on the rise in inflation levels which is caused by the ever increasing rental charges in the country.