22 February 2013

Zambia: Country Still Needs More Housing Units

DECENT housing is an essential aspect to everyone's quality of life, with considerable economic, social, and personal significance.

However, Zambia still suffers from a serious housing shortage that has continued to worsen as the population grows.

The National Housing Policy of 1996 identified a need for more than 860,000 housing units and recommended construction of 110,000 units per year.

According to the Ministry of Local Government and Environmental Protection, the country is currently experiencing a shortage of more than three million decent houses.

One big market begging for investors is Lusaka, which according to the National Housing Policy, only has 10 per cent of its total housing units in formal settlements, while the rest were in unplanned settlements.

Lusaka needs 150,000 units and there is an urgent need on the Copperbelt to house workers in the mining industry.

The remaining 90 per cent consists of squatter units, which houses around 70 per cent of the city's population on less than 20 per cent of its residential land.

However, in rural areas, civil servants and public workers struggle to find affordable homes.

Bitrust Real Estates principal consultant Holland Mulenga, said as new land parcels are opened up, major property developers both foreign and local need to build at least 50,000 housing units per year in different parts of the country to be realistic for the next 10 to 15 years.

"But this is a huge expense and needs well-planned housing estates to be made. Of course, high rise flats would be most suitable and cost-effective. This would also bring about good employment opportunities," Mr Mulenga said.

He said Individuals tend to make a negligible contribution and take time to do this but large multi-national corporations are best suited to undertake such mammoth investments.

The rapid rise in house prices and rentals is clearly arising from the dearth of house supply.

Investing in the construction of high rise flats as one possible panacea and perhaps a cheaper form of supply of basic services and infrastructure needed to meet this urban drift.

The Government is, however, up to the game to ensure that more housing units are being constructed.

Several measures and incentives have been put in place to encourage foreign investors to construct housing units.

Some of the incentives include easy repatriation of profits, removal of rent and foreign exchange controls, reduced customs duties and duty free imports of some raw materials, and easy access to land.

And one fruit coming from such incentives is the partnership between Zambia development Agency ZDA and Henan Guoji Development Company Limited, a Chinese company to construct housing units in Chongwe.

The project will see the construction more than 450 housing units at Chongwe's Silver Rest gardens housing complex at the cost of US$30 million.

Commerce Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Richard Taima said during the launch of the project that Government is determined to woo more investors to invest in various sectors of the economy.

Mr Taima said Government is anxious to find developers to undertake joint venture housing programmes to increase the annual output as well as our return on investment.

Mr Taima said the move to construct 450 housing units will significantly contribute to reducing the country's current housing deficit.

He said the joint venture will contribute to quick national development and that it will avail the local market with new technologies.

"This partnership is very significant in the sense that it will contribute to the reduction of the housing deficit the country is currently faced with and it will also come with new technologies which are an important fact to development," Mr Taima said.

Mr Taima commended Henan Guoji Development Company Limited for having the confidence to invest in the Zambian economy, adding that the Government would continue creating suitable investment environment for both local and foreign investors.

He however challenged the company to consider going to other parts of the country and partner with councils and implement the projects saying that this would largely help the country overcome the housing deficit.

Henan Guoji Development company Limited representative Jack Guan says the firm is confident that it would positively contribute to Zambia's economy.

The minister said investing in Zambia provided his company with the peace of mind as the environment was investor friendly.

"As a company, we will ensure that we deliver good structures which will be able to stand the test of time and we are encouraged with the investment climate in this country, the project will be completed by the end of this year,' he said.

It is, however, undisputable that the housing development partnership will surely contribute to the reduction of the current deficit the country.

The project would also create a number of jobs during the construction periods for the locals and expatriates.

It's a good indication that the country is making headways in tackling the housing shortage the country is facing through enhanced public private partnerships.

The country has a housing deficit which needed urgent attention from both the public and private sectors.

Last year, the Government introduced a housing initiative targeting Zambians in the Diaspora and foreign investors to invest in housing and other forms of infrastructure in the country.

But to this end, it is encouraging to note that this call is slowly coming to reality as the country has seen foreign investors taking interest in the initiative.

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