Tuesday 13 April 2021
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Mass houses cause uproar in Mariental

Almost two years after completion, about 39 Namibia Housing Enterprise houses in Mariental are still unoccupied despite potential buyers squatting in shacks. Disgruntled residents have now come forth and expressed their frustration over the perceived delay tactics and accused the local municipality of favoritism and not having the interest of the locals at heart.  During a visit to the town in March this year, The Patriot reported that there were 48 unoccupied mass houses. Since then, the council has only been able to hand over keys to nine new house owners. Frustrated Veronique Witbeen, who has been on NHE Mariental housing list since 2007 is amongst the many perplexed by the matter and has questioned the responsible authorities to come clean.  “These people are just playing with us. We are crowded in little shacks with our families while there are houses built for us but we are not allowed to live in them. Why are the houses built when they do not want to give them to us?” she queried while speaking to this publication this week. The municipality’s Chief Executive Officer Paul Nghiwilepo said the council’s hands are cut off in the matter and it is not in their mandate to allocate the houses to the residents. With a rising housing backlog in the town, Nghiwilepo said he shares the residents’ sentiments but says there is nothing the municipality can do.
“We have enquired from NHE to speed up the process as the residents are bitter on the matter, but we were made to understand that the commercial banks are not willing to finance the houses due to high price tags on the properties,” said Nghiwilepo.   Nghiwilepo added that the municipality is constantly being approached by private individuals who want to buy the houses but do not qualify as they are not on the NHE list.  The situation is boiling at the moment in Mariental and residents are starting to question why NHE is stalling the allocation process. “When the President [Hage Geingob] visited us before these houses were built, he said the houses should be affordable to each and every Namibia regardless of their salary. Now they are telling us that the houses are not affordable. Why are they only unaffordable now when they were built to be affordable for all of us?” asked Witbeen.
Approached for comment, NHEs Chief Corporate Communications Eric Libongani said the delay in the allocation is caused by the commercial banks that are not coming forth in financing the houses.  “Our hands are cut off in the matter because these houses are not leased off. The bonds are not registered and the people on the list cannot afford the houses. People must understand that we operate on cost recovery and we charge way below the market prices. If a house is for example N$200 000, we would add our interest, which is the lowest. Unless you are telling us that people must get houses for free,” said Libongani.  Libongani blamed the high housing prices on the exorbitant land prices charged by local authorities. The price then goes up by servicing the land before even starting to lay brick on brick, he lamented.   “Affordability is a function of individual income. And with our low rates, if you cannot afford NHE houses, then I wonder where you will be able to afford one. There is a cost in building a house and there is no way that we[NHE] will absorb that cost. We need to recover our cost and make sure that those who can afford to purchase the houses are allowed to do so, provided that the procedures are followed,” he said.

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