10 August 2017

Ethiopia: Due Attention to Innovative, Alternative Housing Schemes

One of the pressing issues that the rapidly growing Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's primate city, has been facing is serious housing problem. The capital is struggling to give its growing population opportunities to obtain decent, sustainable and affordable housing. The problem requires multifaceted solutions, new approaches, technologies and alternatives.

One major alternative could be encouraging innovative low-cost housing schemes, besides the government's partially successful condominium projects of 10/90, 20/80 and 40/60. The government has built and transferred to residents more than 176,000 houses in the past decade alone. Yet, some 900,000 people are registered and in the waiting list of the above mentioned programs.

Besides, there are also a significant number of low and middle income groups who cannot afford the condominium programs, let alone using the other alternatives available such as cooperatives and private real estate developers. The private real estate development is so expensive that it totally excludes low and middle income sections of the society. The houses that are built through cooperatives, which are relatively cheaper than the outrageously expensive houses developed by private developers are still unaffordable. In fact, the prices of such houses are in the range of 600,000 to 900,000, beyond the reach of these sections of the society.

There are pilot projects to construct rental houses for lower income groups and civil servants, which could be scaled up based on feasibility. Currently, 2000 houses are under construction in the pilot projects.

The government has planned 450,000 houses would be built in the capital during GTP II, half of which by itself and the remaining half by cooperatives, private developers and other alternative projects. This is a daunting task and requires multifaceted approach.

For instance, the city needs saleable innovative housing schemes like that of the Sustainable Incremental Construction Unit (SICU), a collaborative pilot project and academic initiative by The Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC), _Bauhaus University Weimar, and the University of Juba in South Sudan. The pilot project sought to create a low-cost, easy-to-build housing typology that combines innovative construction techniques with local ways of living, using materials that can be produced locally. It specifically targeted the capital's rapidly increasing housing demand due to rapid population growth, specifically growth in slums and informal settlements. Such initiative have to be encouraged, scaled up, studied and adopted as alternatives housing schemes.

While conducting such pilot low-cost innovative housing projects, it is also vital to take into consideration their applicability and scalability, besides academic purposes. The main object has to be about solving the real problems of the society practically. The main advantages of the innovative ideas have to be studied by taking local contexts into consideration.

Due emphasis has to be given to the fact that that housing development goes in line with urban development. It has to be seen from the perspective of infrastructural supply, transportation development, settlement patterns and urban design.

There is still low level of commitment from concerned authorities in adopting the new cost efficient ideas that come about from academicians as the implementation of such ideas require extra commitment and add huge managerial burden and workload.

It is vital to look for alternatives all the time and improve the management system, public-private partnership and commitment to share knowledge and implement new ideas. In addition, as housing is not a temporary problem, it demands a long-term strategy.

For long Addis Ababa has been single-handedly bearing the burden of the countries rapid urbanization. Stimulating the growth of secondary cities should be seen as part of the solution. It is vital to speed up the growth of new urban centres and small and medium sized towns. In fact it is planned to establish some 8000 rural urban centres in rural urban centres.

The government housing offices at city administration and federal levels and academicians at the (EiABC), as well as the private sector should form partnership to solve the problems.

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