First printed in Consumer News Namibia magazine - Jan 2013 edition
All Namibians have the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food, clothing, and housing. It is the responsibility of the politicians to ensure the legal and policy framework is in place, while it is the duty of the civil servants and employees of State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) to implement these in practical terms. Unfortunately, this has not materialised in the form of housing for all. According to estimates, the Namibian housing shortage stands at over 300 000 units. Almost 280 000 of these houses are needed for the households earning N$ 5,000 a month or less.
In 2011, the Minister of Regional, Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Honourable Jerry Ekandjo stated at the 13th Annual Symposium of the Bank of Namibia, “I would like to emphasise that the limited access to housing in Namibia is of great concern to us all. It is worrying that there is a backlog of about 300,000 houses and that 70 per cent of the population cannot access decent residential properties mainly due to issues of availability and affordability. This alarming situation calls for radical policy measures to restore the housing market.”
Existing Government Programmes
National Housing Enterprise (NHE)
The government created the NHE in 1993 with the objective of “.. financing of housing for inhabitants of Namibia and generally providing for the housing needs of such inhabitants”. In Vision 2030 it is expected that NHE should deliver 7 937 units though no deadline is given. This compares to figures supplied in the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) housing report of 2011 that NHE has only been able to build an average of 253 houses per year since 2003.
The Build Together Programme involves:
· low-income households with incomes that do not exceed N$1250.00 per month
· low-income households in squatter areas
· low-middle income households without credit access
The programme was established to cover both rural and urban areas with a target of reaching an average of 1300 families per year.
Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (Tipeeg)
In addition to NHE and Build Together Programme, the government through Tipeeg, had as its aim to build 1 507 low-cost houses per year from 2011 until 2014. There are no results on how many of these units have been built to date.
The aim of delivering housing to all Namibians is not being met and we need to hold the management of the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) and Build Together Programme accountable.
Not all is gloom and doom though. In September 2012, NHE announced it will establish two new components, one to service land and the second to build the houses rather than issuing tenders to companies to build the houses.
Further to this development, NHE and financial institution FNB Namibia, signed a partnership agreement in November 2012 to provide affordable homes and financing to support low-income earners to acquire housing. They will also assist customers in leveraging these assets to create wealth for themselves – or putting it plainly, using their homes for collateral to acquire credit.
As consumers we have to continue to fight for the recognition of our rights and get the knowledge about where we can access these rights. At Independence, the political and social rights were guaranteed through the Constitution. The fight for recognition of our economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights must continue until each and every Namibian has an adequate standard of living – including the assistance to own their own house.