… as town eyes housing haven status
The untold story of the Garden Town so far is the fast-growing pace of housing development the town is experiencing.
Stiff house prices in Windhoek have forced many people to move to Okahandja to escape the housing burden in the city. However, Okahandja residents are worried how the municipality will solve the nagging waste problem should the population continue growing.
Meanwhile, Windhoekers who have moved to the town have their wallets relieved as rental prices are in line with their monthly salaries. According to a resident of Smarties in Okahandja, who recently moved to the town but commutes to Windhoek every morning for work, rental prices are relatively affordable and commuting to Windhoek every day is not much of a problem.
“You get a two-bedroom flat for as little as N$3 500 per month here. This is excluding water and electricity but the price is still relatively less compared to what you would pay in Windhoek. You can also find a three-bedroom house and rent is N$5 000,” said Charlie Matengo.
The flip side of the affordable housing prices, however, is that most Okahandja residents can still not afford accommodation.
“There is no employment here. And with the jobs that are in the town, people do not get market-fitting salaries to compete for housing – unlike in Windhoek where most professionals work and many people who have money reside. In the end, only people from Windhoek are able to afford land in this town, which is still unfair for the residents. It is even almost impossible for people here to afford rent figures that people from Windhoek will deem cheap.”
The conundrum that the town faces is that while it wants to provide its residents with affordable housing, the same people do not have jobs – leaving the gap for outsiders to fill.
Parallel to the town’s population growth sits the question of how the municipality will now deal with the waste management issue, which has been a problem for some years. A walk through the town’s informal settlement of Grysblock reveals heaps of rubbish close to houses and black plastic bags that await to be dumped. Residents of the settlement do not have dustbins and as a result people have to collect and dump their own rubbish at a dumpsite that is just metres from their houses.
“If the towns waste management could not handle the population yesterday, how will it handle the booming population? This place is dirty and it is not only a health hazard but terrible for living,” said Matengo.
The municipality is said to have recently floated a tender for waste removal but residents are oblivious of the finalisation of the process. Speaking to The Patriot on the subject, the town’s Chief Executive Officer, who was at a workshop out of town at the time contacted, assured this publication that a solution will be found as soon as the tender process is finalised. “We are just waiting for the Tender Board meeting so that we finalise everything,” said Martha Mutilifa.
The local authority has been accused of being very discriminatory because the closer you move to town, the cleaner the places are kept by the same municipality – not the same is done in the informal settlements.
While residents wait on the solution to the waste removal problem, not only are their lives at risk but they also have to endure uncomfortable lives, with the situation worsening by the day. “Just behind my house is a dumpsite and people burn things there almost every day. Sometimes there is smoke all over and the whole area looks cloudy. We have spoken enough but nothing has been done.” concluded a resident from Smarties, who preferred anonymity.