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40% of Windhoek households live in shacks

40% of Windhoek households live in shacks

The Economic Association of Namibia held a think-tank talk this week and discussed the role of over-regulation in the built environment and proposed some solutions through the discussion of case studies.

The focus was on town planning and engineering standards that are either archaic or ill-suited to facilitating the development of good, lasting urban form in Namibia.

“On the surface Windhoek appears to be a first world city,” said Urban Dynamics planner, Martin Mendelsohnon the issue of the right to urban land. Mendelsohn said that roughly 40% of households in Windhoek live in informal settlements.

With the relatively little traffic, the seemingly clean, houses that are generally in good repair, and have accesses to a high quality of services.

In part, Mendelsohn said that this is a result of the regulatory framework that guides development of Windhoek. Current regulation means that only people with access to sizeable incomes or credit are able to participate in the property market as they are the only ones who can afford to pay the high costs required.

This in turn means that a large part of the population is explicitly excluded from the right to own property. These regulations play a critical role in the continuation of spatial, economic and social segregation in Windhoek.

Progress on the development of housing is being hindered, the Economic Association of Namibia said and with access to services and the development of local economies and skills, and with that goes the stimulation of growth to allow poorer communities to improve their livelihoods.

“Current regulatory framework therefore does not allow the poor to be acknowledged, keeping them on the periphery and actively suppresses their economic and social upliftment,” Leon Barnard of Leon Barnard Architects said.

He added that the imposed set of standards can only be bypassed by those who have the resources to motivate alternative forms of development with local authorities to get concessions from punitive standards.

Often times, Barnard said as one of the speakers, the situation arises whereby it is only worthwhile to develop large pieces of land where it is feasible to undertake these negotiations and where there is some freedom to create space away from punitive regulations. These developments are generally driven by an incentive to generate profit, and therefore Barnard said can often only cater to the segment of the markets that can afford them.

The affordability, profitability, creation of ‘quality’ space and resultant demand for these developments out of the public realm is further testament to the failure of public standards, and the enforcement of these standards pushes up the costs of providing infrastructure and services for the city, contributing to a deficit that runs into the hundreds of millions.

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