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Mismatch between housing policy and delivery – Alweendo

Housing delivery in Namibia is lagging behind despite policies aimed at fast tracking the supply of housing, a situation that is worsening the level of poverty, inequality and reducing the standard of living contrary to the aspirations of Vision 2030, the National Planning Commission (NPC) has said.
In a speech read on his behalf at the annual Pension Funds Conference recently, the NPC Director General Tom Alweendo said while Namibia has many institutional and regulatory frameworks on housing, there is a serious gap between policy and implementation.
He said despite having a National Housing Policy in place since 1991, and the housing sector enjoying a prominent “space” under Vision 2030 and all national development plans from NDP1 through to NDP4, the achievements so far in housing delivery have not been at the desired level.
In fact, Alweendo said, the percentage of households living in modern houses which includes detached, semi-detached houses and flats decreased from 44.4% in 2001 to 42.6% in 2011, while households living in improvised houses increased from 9.2% in 2001 to 16% in 2011. Quoting the Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey of 2009/2010, Alweendo said only 13% of households in the lowest income bracket live in detached houses compared to 81% in the highest income bracket.
Alweendo bemoaned the fact that while the Namibia Housing Enterprises (NHE) mandate encompasses the provision of houses to low income groups, the parastatal has concentrated on the provision of housing to those who earn N$6000 and more, adding that the number of houses delivered through NHE has also been on a downward trend in recent years. In the period between 2003 and 2001, NHE delivered on average 200 houses per annum compared to an average 600 houses between 1994 and 2002.
In addition, Alweendo said the delivery of housing by the private sector has slowed down as indicated by the number of people who own houses with a mortgage which fell from 16% to 14% of households from 2001 to 2011.
Alweendo said given these statistics, there is a need to review the transmission from policy to implementation as housing can be an important economic growth enabler by stimulating other related industries such as construction, production of inputs such as cement, bricks, iron related products, and household accessories; and also have a strong linkage to our financial and banking system.
“It goes without saying that it can be also a source of employment for both unskilled and skilled labour. In the country where aggregate demand is low due to small population, low income levels and high unemployment, housing sector seems to be a niche not yet exploited to its maximum potential,” Alweendo said.
The NPC Director General reiterated that the unavailability of serviced land and its high cost is a hindrance in the delivery of housing in Namibia. He accused local authorities, who are the custodians of town land, of creating artificial monopolies in the delivery of land a major component in housing delivery.
He said despite the establishment of the Habitat Research Centre- the research and knowledge from such institution has not yet being embraced by the suppliers of housing in the country.
He implored employers to facilitate or acquire housing for their employees since this will add dignity to them and thus increase productivity.
Further, Alweendo said Government has to review its allocation to housing and the operations of the public programmes in the delivery of housing to ensure accountability and value for money, while also shifting emphasis to low income groups.
He said the subsidies for low incomes groups for housing should be well focused and targeted otherwise they are diverted to operational expenses of the housing programmes therefore limiting the quantity of supply of houses.
“Although initiatives are already in place to fast track the delivery of serviced land in urban areas, there is still a high need to increase resource allocation for that purpose and local authorities should come up with innovative ways to deliver land for low income groups.
“There is a need in addition to ownership as a method for housing delivery to encourage other methods which did not receive much attention such as rent, rent with the option to buy and high density housing. Private sector financing should be made attractive for financing low income housing too,” Alweendo said.

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