Namibia: Harambee Back With Housing Promises

President Hage Geingob's Harambee Prosperity Plan II (HPPII) is taking another shot at solving the country's housing crisis.

This time it promises not only to build 20 000 housing units, but to service 24 000 erven countrywide in five years, starting this year.

These ambitions are detailed in an HPPII document launched at the end of March under the pillars of economic and social progression.

The HPPII is regarded as the country's recovery plan.

This time the government pushed the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) and Ongos Valley to the fore, which means construction under these entities would contribute to the HPPII's housing objectives.

Schack Dwellers Federation of Namibia houses will also resort under the HPPII, as the document states the federation is among various public and private stakeholders the government will partner with.

The usual partners, namely the National Housing Enterprise, regional councils and local authorities, will remain part of the journey.

The document shows that the government is willing to work with other private-sector developers.

During the 2020 Cabinet retreat, housing was identified as one of three priority sectors alongside agriculture and education through which Namibia's economic emancipation must be pursued.

The latest data from the Namibian Statistics Agency indicates that Namibia has around 113 informal settlements with 230 000 shacks, and a population of almost half a million (401 748) inhabitants, which is rapidly growing.

The skewed economic development between rural and urban areas will keep migration to urban areas increasing.

Under the economic advancement pillar of the HPPII various activities are planned to accelerate the delivery of ultra-low-cost housing in various regions of the country.

It would also catalyse economic activities and simultaneously boost the construction sector.

HPPII SOLUTION

The HPPII document does not disclose the budget allocated to the proposed projects, but highlights generally how it would address the housing problem in the next five years.

This time the president and his team are finally going beyond the stagnant brick-and-mortar approach, which would open doors to innovative building materials.

"Given the scarcity of land and the limitation of affordable housing in Namibia, an innovative and novel approach to designing and delivering housing will be assessed," the document reads.

Planned activities "will promote the infusion of the value-engineering ethos into the accelerated provision of housing as a critical element to support sustainable stimulative economic activity", it states.

To achieve optimal returns on investment the HPPII states it would promote the institutionalisation of early value engineering at feasibility, concept, and design stages.

Value engineering would be done upon the implementation of all capital projects conducted under the HPPII, starting with housing delivery.

The HPPII defines value engineering as a formalised and organised approach to providing the necessary functions of a project at the lowest cost.

This promotes the early substitution of materials and methods with more cost-effective alternatives without sacrificing functionality and quality, the plan reads.

The approach was briefly mooted in the government's Vision 2030 and NDP5 proposals, which encouraged alternative construction methods and models.

This included contracts that outline mechanisms for contractors to submit value-engineering proposals during the construction stage.

Moreover, Resolution 24 of the second land conference held in 2018 implored the "relevant government agencies" to develop standards for local and alternative building materials and to redraft standards for building low-cost houses.

The agencies were also to investigate incorporating housing development and construction in local value chains to support economic development.

Given the limited fiscal space and pressures from Covid-19, the HPPII team has opted to attract sustainable private-sector investment to the economy as a solution.

"The government is committed to fostering synergetic partnerships with members of the private sector who share the passion and dedication for inclusive growth in Namibia," the document reads.

This involves overlapping stakeholders, markets, and legal systems for accessing land, finance, and services like water, electricity, sewerage, and construction.

The HPPII plans to establish an urban development fund through bilateral cooperation with development partners to supplement funding for the delivery of serviced land and housing by 2022.

The team indicates that a rent-control bill would be promulgated by the end of this year to enable the operationalisation of the rent-control board and to implement rent-control measures.

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