President Hage Geingob has told Cabinet that he wants a “proper” audit of the Mass Housing Project which was put on ice in 2015 after the National Housing Enterprise was unable to secure the N$2 billion needed to bankroll the first phase of the N$45 billion programme following government’s refusal to provide guarantees to secure the loans required.
The project was also stopped after orders from Cabinet for the NHE to renegotiate previously awarded construction contracts for lesser amounts, seemingly went unheeded.
Government believes that some contractors had inflated their costs, charging N$6,000 per square meter per house when a lesser standard of N$3,000 per square meter was deemed more appropriate.
The housing project, which was launched in 2013 by former President Hifikepunye Pohamba, intended to build 185,000 houses by 2030.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the president also said the rental stock is sub-standard and overpriced suggesting that rent control regulation might improve affordability and access to shelter for many young Namibians who have been forced to live in informal settlements and dilapidated dwellings.
Geingob added that government should explore more flexible schemes that would allow subsequent purchases of rental property in “Rent to Own” programs.
“I want to hear what the obstacles are in the implementation of Rent Control. If such policies exist in many parts of the world, why are we struggling to protect the vulnerable?
“I recognize the plight of students in urban centers who have limited access to accommodation in universities. We should accelerate the delivery of the Student Village that is currently in the pipeline with the City of Windhoek as a matter of priority.”
Spokesperson of the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, Etuna Shikalepo, said recently that about 720 houses built country wide under the multi-billion dollar Mass Housing Project remain unoccupied.
The list of unoccupied houses includes 185 in Rundu in the Kavango East Region and 69 houses in Nkurenkuru in the Kavango West Region.
Construction of the houses ended last year, but they have not been handed over to beneficiaries yet.
There are 17 houses that are still under construction in Opuwo in the Kunene Region.
A combined 112 credit-linked houses at Okahao and Oshikuku in the Omusati Region have also not been handed over to beneficiaries by government through the National Housing Enterprise (NHE).
Bukalo has 86 houses while Katima Mulilo has 202 that are in the process of being allocated to their owners.
In Hardap, all 130 houses have been completed and allocated.
In the //Kharas Region all houses have been completed with the exception of Keetmanshoop where construction of the remaining 89 houses will be finalised in December this year.
In Windhoek, about 362 houses at Otjomuise Extension 10 built by contractor, Afrikuumba, have not been completed.
According to Shikalepo, the Windhoek houses have not reached the ‘practical completion’ stage and cannot be handed over to beneficiaries.
She said various town planning issues need to be resolved first before the houses can be certified as ready for occupancy.
“All over, there is no delay in the handing over of the completed social houses under the Mass Housing Project that are finance bonded by government through the National Housing Enterprises.
“The only delay in the handing over of completed Mass Housing Project houses experienced is in respect of credit-linked houses, which were initially sold to applicants who were able to secure loans or mortgage financing from commercial institutions.
“Lengthy loan approval processes, rejection of home loan applications and unwillingness on the part of some banks or financial institutions to extend the loans to beneficiaries who were approved and allocated houses by NHE, resulted in serious delays in the sale of available or completed credit-linked houses,” Shikalepo said.
There are only 66 credit linked houses in Windhoek.
Countrywide 1,979 out of 2,699 Mass Housing Project houses have been occupied.
Namibia's housing backlog is estimated at over 120,000 and continues to grow.