Thursday 6 May 2021
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Do we need a welfare policy to address housing backlog and land shortages?

Welfare systems are useful to solve interim shortages and creates flexibility in economic reform and safeguards.

Walvis Bay overtook Windhoek on the completed building index with 2949 buildings while Windhoek has only 1533 in 2014. This is a concern that escalated the catastrophic outcome of the housing backlog and it poses an economic threat that will affect the Namibian citizens negatively.
The land hiatus pushed many families into deeper marginalization and impoverishment because it drastically annihilated the middle class. According to FNB housing index of December 2015 the median housing prices are N$ 1.2 million for Windhoek, N$ 790 for Okahandja and N$ 780 for Gobabis. The shortage of serviced land and expensive property prices in the city escalated prices of neighbouring towns without changing the inhabitants’ standard of living and further made land and housing expensive.
Welfare and Social land and Property Disbursement policies backed by financial and social support is required to reduce the current setback, we need strategies to optimize systematic and structural resources to focus on the contentious issue. In Namibia’s case 30% of Windhoek population live in shacks, about 49% live in detached houses and shacks, more than half the remaining inhabitants are renting at astronomical rates. Rental rates increase with 10% every year whilst the current inflation rate is adjusted at 7%, meaning people are losing enormous sums of income renting.
We have almost similar building material costs with South Africa and their average value for building a flat is N$ 8 163 per square meter and we need to avoid this pattern before it comes to haunt our pockets. Clearly we must reduce this figure to maintain income balance and avoid deeper domestic debt.
Welfare policies are used to distribute wealth and propagate social benefits in the form of aid to families and households. Welfare policies are not always free but they can quickly address setbacks just like the foodbank initiative launched. Land allocation has become too legalistic and cumbersome, there is lack of accountability thus far and people are waiting on tangible turnaround strategies and the government must act as soon as possible, clearly without taking shortcuts and playing politics as usual. In the Namibian scenario not even graduates, newly-weds and families are able to afford a proper house at affordable rates.
There are few collaborative efforts called by the government. A moratorium must be called on sectional titles and flats because they are a scapegoat for property behemoths that sell at inflated prices and high rental prices. Voluntary reconciliations can be called for those with enormous or oversize and sometime unused land and others with commonage farms to dissolve and restructure distribution of land to the “real” needy communities. There is need to engage expeditiously with society members and institutions both public and private to work on a pragmatic action plan instead of reluctantly “thumb-sucking” solutions in isolation that fail to manifest. It is time to engage society and the private sector on suggestive efforts for best collaboration.
“As for me I think the government needs an interactive Harambee of its own to shed light on this problem, this is a national deal breaker or a bad economic sting, you feel me?”.
The state can create a task force to identify vacant land, absentee owners and re-adjust policies to revoke dormant properties and abundant land. SOE’s can avail resources for data collection and policy reform costs. Private sector can donate systems and instruments for data collection to register all landless people and the type of accommodation they can afford, other resources are needed for surveys to count number of people renting and at which rate.
This adjustment can also create temporary jobs for youths. Funds can be used to cover legal means to investigate and revoke land that was acquired through illicit ways. money is needed to investigate corrupt officials to return illicit obtained land.
Further we must create a database to access demand and supply and financial requirements as well as predict investment capital requirements to meet overall demand in a certain period of allocated time. Currently people are less informed on the progress made, there must be a clearer communication strategy targeted at resolving this issue, we live in an age of advance print or web platforms such as portals, emails, websites, sms, that can be used for outreach. Group consultations will also be an easier way to reach members of society that require land.
There is need to assess the ability of City of Windhoek and NHE to measure their capacity to deliver on time, else there must be combative efforts to bring about more capacity and draw more resources from the private sector through reciprocal alliances. Investment alliances can also be raised that consider all areas of resource provision.
Clearly there is minimal work required to for preliminary research considering that we are 2 million people and have 4 line ministries(some with engineers) and 1 state owned enterprise for housing, a road construction corporation with no much tenders and tar road building capacity, Ohorongo cement(protected by state against cement imports), funds under pension fund and social security agencies with no clear investment strategies and more than 20 municipalities some with good equipment, town planners, engineers, accountants, an military engineering corporation (North Korea style is using military for National efforts), SOE’s with vacant lease land and dormant houses, public officials with servicing equipment to tackle this issue.
Failing is not an option because tax payers need evidence of their monetary sacrifice. Many people might even prepay for erven (which is an inspiring reason for saving) and some might volunteer to service erven because it is for national welfare.
Not all solutions are copied from other countries or narrated in books, but it is our impetus to draft custom made solutions and draft an escape plan that we can sell to the world. God Bless Namibia.

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