Namibia: NHE to Spend N$10m On Informal Housing

The National Housing Enterprise says it will spend N$10 million this year to construct and upgrade houses in Windhoek's informal settlements.

NHE spokesperson Eric Libongani told The Namibian last week that the proposed pilot project would be implemented in Windhoek's Katutura and Otjomuise townships before it is rolled out to other towns.

The NHE is the entity with the mandate for housing provision countrywide.

According to a public notice issued by the NHE this month, the proposed project would only benefit people who have plots registered in their names, or those with lease agreements with the City of Windhoek.

Such plots, the notice stated, should be connected to basic services such as water and electricity.

"Information sessions will be arranged and announced in due course," the public notice read.

"Katutura and Otjomuise were strategically selected because there are many households in these areas that have plots but do not have formal structures on them," Libongani stated. Beneficiaries would be chosen on a first-come-first-served basis, the notice said.

The NHE credit policy dictates that only people who earn no more than N$20 000 as monthly salary (gross salary including housing allowances and subsidies) can qualify for up to a N$600 000 housing loan.

The current maximum loan repayment period is 20 years, and beneficiaries are required to at least put down a 10% deposit of the value of the property.

The entity, however, did not disclose the number of houses to be built under this project.

Libongani said the availability of funds would determine the number of houses to be built and/or upgraded, and the type of housing clients may choose.

The pilot project, he added, would only target people who cannot obtain a bank loan.

He also did not explain where the NHE would get the projected N$10 million to fund the proposed project, expected to be completed within one year.

Critics, including the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement and some opposition parties, argued that the proposed project was a ploy to deceive the public into thinking that the current administration was concerned and committed to solving the housing crisis in the country.

AR activist Job Amupanda said it was a ploy by the ruling party's government to deceive the electorate into believing that Swapo was concerned about solving the housing problem in the country.

Amupanda added that the proposed project shows that the government was not serious about housing provision because "the fundamentals such as the Flexible Land Tenure Act and other enabling legislation that would have dealt with the housing issue are not handled".

"What is scandalous and laughable is that they are talking about the informal settlements, but they don't have a framework to deal with that in terms of housing finance. For an institution like that, you don't just intervene for the sake of it, but you need to have an institutional framework. So, all those things are not explained to us," he said.

Amupanda furthermore claimed that the ruling party was using the issue of housing provision for electioneering purposes because some NHE board members, such as chairperson Sam Shivute, were part of the Swapo think tank, who also drafted the party's election manifesto. "All we see is just an electioneering poster. This is all that they needed to do to mislead people. It gives them room to say - this is what NHE is going to do, and they put it in their manifesto to mislead people to vote for them," he said.

RDP parliamentarian Mike Kavekotora, who criticised the government's housing provision efforts to low-income-earners, said the NHE needed to reintroduce the concept of "incremental housing that was successfully implemented before" to demonstrate that it was serious with addressing the housing issue.

He proposed that the government should also introduce a benchmark ratio to ensure that adequate resources are allocated to housing provision.

"If we need 10% of the national budget to be allocated to housing, so be it, and let's stick to that ratio until the housing challenge is duly addressed," Kavekotora urged.

Shivute told The Namibian on Monday that the NHE came up with the housing project last year as a selective board decision and not pushed by him. He added that he had not been elected to be part of the Swapo think tank at the time.

He further argued that this project has nothing to do with elections as they want to assist those with erven who do not have assistance financially to build a home. "Let people come forth with land and see what happens," Shivute said.

In defence of the project, Libongani also dismissed the electioneering claims, saying the project was among many of the NHE's measures to ensure that "every eligible Namibian has access to quality and affordable housing".

He said the NHE was committed to its mandate of providing and financing housing, whether during an election year or not.

The parastatal's last major project was former president Hifikepunye Pohamba's 2013 mass housing programme's answer to Namibia's housing crisis, with a promise to build 148 000 houses by 2030.

The Namibian reported last year that around 360 houses completed under the programme in Windhoek had not been handed over to beneficiaries, two years after most of them were completed.

The urban development ministry was allocated about N$2 billion, which is an increase of 6,5% on the previous year's allocation.

Urban development minister Peya Mushelenga said in the National Assembly last month that his ministry wants to spend N$561 million on the servicing of urban land this year.

He added that about N$100 million would be spent on rural infrastructure and sanitation development.

The ministry, according to budget documents, would receive N$5,8 billion for its development budget over the medium-term expenditure framework.

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