12 March 2018

Namibia: Geingos Applauds Shack Dwellers

FIRST Lady Monica Geingos described a shack - dwellers' housing project as an example of poor Namibians taking the bull by the horns when it came to meeting government halfway - and not accepting handouts.

She said while budget cuts are taking place in most sectors, government is giving more money to the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) because "we know the money is going to the people".

In fact, minister of urban and rural development Peya Mushelenga said government's support to the project to date since its inception about 20 years ago has been N$37,6 million. In the current financial year, N$7 million has been budgeted for SDFN.

"This support will continue in the future, and the amount will be increased to N$10 million in the next financial year," he stated.

According to the First Lady, the secret of the federation's success, compared to other programmes, is that "there is no politicking".

"No one is being punished for being in the wrong political party, tribe or colour," said Geingos, who is also the patron of the SDFN.

She praised the beneficiaries for addressing their own housing needs, and meeting government halfway.

It was for this reason that government, through her office, provided collateral-free loans to ensure that the beneficiaries can pay the loans back at low interest, instead of falling into a debt trap where they use most of their earnings to service high-interest loans.

She also warned people using social media not to heed to "crooks" who pretend to be her offering loans.

"I am friendly, but not friendly. Be careful of these con artists who use my name. Be careful what you believe on social media because you can lose a lot of money," she stressed.

Geingos said some of the challenges faced with the provision of housing were certain policies and regulations which were "holding back" development - such as the policies of some municipalities where erven of no less than 300 square metres are available for owning and building a house on.

"Sometimes, people do not need much space. Let the standards be relative to the needs of the people," she said.

She thus urged municipalities and service utilities to also consider the difference between low-cost housing and low-income housing.

Low-cost housing refers to cheap houses, but which still cannot be afforded by those who earn incomes of less than N$3 000 per month - the latter requiring low-income housing.

She called on these institutions to also meet the beneficiaries halfway when it comes to service rates, and not to be the cause they lose their houses because of high debt rates. The SDFN's 'Thlabalong' savings group was allocated land in 2014 after negotiations with the Swakopmund municipality to develop land while town planning took its course.

The request was accepted by the council to start the installation of services (water and sewerage) through the training of beneficiaries, and council assisted with the layout in 2016. The community was trained during the installation, and as a result, gained skills in the installation of sewer and water lines.

After services were completed, permission to proceed with construction was granted, and 36 houses were built from the funds from the housing ministry's N$1,6 million contributions. It took the beneficiaries two months to complete the construction of the houses last year.

A house costs N$45 000, excluding land, which the municipalities provide cost-effectively. The beneficiaries pay monthly premiums over 11, 15 or 20 years at an interest rate of 5%.

Geingos also visited the 100 houses under the same programme, which are still under construction at Walvis Bay. SDFN consists of 747 groups of over 23 000 members countrywide. They have saved over N$25 million since their inception, and have already built 4 800 houses. There are nearly 4 800 members in Erongo, and 432 houses have been built to date, excluding the 100 houses under construction at Walvis Bay.

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