28 January 2013

Zambia: Estates Key to Housing Crisis

WITH the advent of rapid urbanisation, Lusaka has had a perennial shortage of what may be referred to as decent accommodation.

In recent times, the city has seen the escalation of helter-skelter housing which in some cases defied description except to state that one would conclude some buildings may as well be declared unfit for human habitation!

But life must ramble on for all and sundry as housing is one of the key human rights needs and whose provision is crucial to any government world-wide, including Zambia.

The latter, however, has seen the emergence of new private enterprise initiatives such as the Kalebalika Real Estate Development Project mooted in 2009 which recently inaugurated 64 housing units on Kabwe Road which have been built over a period of time.

The housing estate, which employs 70 skilled and unskilled workers, has a vision of expanding to go countrywide.

Chief executive officer Kennedy Simbeye hopes the envisaged computerisation of the Ministry of Lands records would enhance efficiency and reduce red tape to ensure that more housing units take shape.

A casual glance of the city reveals that three quarters of middle and low-income housing is built in areas that are predominantly over-populated while the standards of housing are below average.

On the other hand, the high income bracket has put up lucrative housing units such as those found in Chalala in the eastern part of the city while the high density areas run out of space.

This necessitates the provision of real estate investment growth in the urban areas in the light of expanding commercialisation and population growth with the construction industry registering double-digit growth rates.

The situation seems to be compounded by lack of affordable land on which people can invest in form of middle and low-income housing. This has been worsened by inflexible terms of borrowing by financial institutions.

It is evident that realistic empowerment is achieved only when it is able to have among others, principal housing needs.

Kalebalika Housing Project envisages collaborating with lending institutions willing to go into mortgage disbursement, partnership and leasing packages a chance to chart new horizons.

Going by history, Lusaka has had similar real estate initiatives which gave birth to housing estates such as Avondale and Merzaf in Chilenje.

On a broader scale, such exploits would go a long way to catch up with the population dynamics in terms of housing.

As housing land becomes acutely scarce, it is only inevitable that there should be a drive notably on the fringes of the city in all directions.

For instance, the only recourse to the current cramming in terms of housing can only be achieved if developers moved out-ward as is the case with the KREDP.

Corporate involvement in real estate development efforts may seem quite feasible going by the recent example which has benefitted the Zambia National Service (ZNS), Ministry of Defence, Moomba Basic and High Schools respectively situated 13 kilometres off the Great North Road (Kabwe Road).

At a modest pace, the project started with modest 14 housing units followed by 16 houses while the rest of the 64 were erected gradually.

The KREDP intends to continue its pioneering efforts which would extend elsewhere in the country.

It is envisaged that if such kind of projects are encouraged to take shape in many parts of the country then this might just be a solution to the ever increasing demand for housing.

It should be borne in mind here that most local councils sold off their properties to sitting tenants in a bid to raise revenue while they were going through financial constraints.

The move was precipitated by previous administrations under the guise of home empowerment scheme but such measures of building more houses would go a long way to replace those units that were sold out.

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