Housing cheer

12 September 2013
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We all really needed something to lift our spirits after the gloom of a bleak, cold winter and the persistent drought that afflicts most of the country. The onset of warmer summer weather and the announcement of Government’s Mass Housing Development Initiative could not have come at a better time to help cheer us up.

As part of the programme, Government plans to construct 189,000 houses at a cost of N$45 billion over the next 17 to 18 years.

It has already scheduled the construction of 9,000 houses at a cost of N$2.7 billion in the next 15 months.

Minister of Regional and Local Government Charles Namoloh, who made the announcement, inspires confidence.

For some reason, when he says it will happen one actually believes what he says.

Perhaps it has something to do with his forthright and honest manner of speaking and the self-discipline that comes with his military background.

When President Hifikepunye Pohamba, rather surprisingly, appointed him to this ministry, he clearly did so after careful thought, and with a specific plan in mind.

Some have already suggested that Pohamba wants to make the provision of housing a cornerstone of his legacy when his 10-year presidency ends.

Frankly, we cannot think of a better legacy for any president, or for anyone who dedicates his or her life to public service.

As we have previously stated the lack of housing creates a permanent sense of insecurity in people’s lives, causes emotional distress and disrupts healthy family life.

Beyond general economic development, the creation of jobs, better education and healthcare this country has few national priorities that rank higher than the provision of housing.

Therefore, the news that Government will build 189,000 houses over the next 17 years comes as welcome news.

The only worry is perhaps that the country needs 189,000 houses in the next few yearsand not in 17 year’s time when the population will have grown significantly.

By Government’s own admission, the current housing backlog already stands at approximately 100,000 houses.

Maybe we should not demand miracles but just be thankful that Government has finally started taking the issue seriously, and seems to have taken genuine steps towards addressing the problem.

While Minister Namoloh has the necessary determination and discipline to make the Mass Housing Initiative happen, one cannot necessarily say the same about our National Housing Enterprise (NHE) or our regional and local government authorities.

As the saying goes, “The best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry” and with such a ragtag and undisciplined army to fight the war with one does not envy Minister Namoloh.

We will resist the temptation of another round of NHE bashing, but suffice it to say, the NHE does not exactly have a stellar record as far as housing provision goes in the last five or six years.

For now, let’s give the NHE the benefit of the doubt and hope that it rises to the challenge of implementing the Mass Housing Initiative.

Namoloh fired his first volley last week when he instituted a four-month ban on overseas travel for regional and local government officials – including governors.

The reason, he said, “...are pressing national issues which presently need our collective and undivided attention”.

The sad thing is that someone should actually need to tell our regional and local government officials this and that they do not realise it themselves.

Public trust in local government officials, particularly councillors, is at an all-time low.

When they are not busy with endlessin-fights, they seem more interested in self-enrichment through dodgy tenders, shady property deals or outright theft of funds rather than public service.

They spend a great deal of their time pocketing subsistence and travel allowances for either local or overseas junkets that often seem to have little relevance to their local authority duties.

For some reason local authority politics seems to attract people with the worst possible character and questionable moral rectitude.

The Mass Housing Initiative cannot succeed unless Government ensures an open and transparent process that leaves no room for corruption. Namoloh lamented the fact that he has asked all 14 regions to provide the ministry with information about all available serviced and unserviced land in their jurisdictions, but only five have responded so far. Could the reason be that councillors and officials are eyeing this land for their own lucrative property deals, which understandably would make them reluctant to release it to anyone else?

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