Editor's Comment

Decent housing for all Zambians

ZAMBIA faces a housing deficit which if not addressed sooner or later will leave a negative impact on the population.
While the population is experiencing a steady growth, the number of housing units has remained too low to cloud out that deficit.
The latest World Population Report estimates that Zambia faces a housing deficit of 3.3 million by 2030 if nothing is done now to avert it.
The nation’s existing housing stock currently stands at about 2.5 million houses for a population of about 16 million, says the report.
Out of the current housing stock, 64 percent is rural and 36 percent is urban housing.
Apart from population growth as a factor that has led to the housing deficit, urbanisation has also contributed to the shortage.
The rate of urbanisation in Zambia is at a rate of 4.13 percent, according to the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance. At this rate, the demand for housing remains high.
Among the options Government has taken to increase the housing stock is to engage the private sector to invest in housing so that more people have access to decent housing.
We want to believe that this move comes out of the realisation that access to decent accommodation is a right for every Zambian.
Due to competing demands, however, Government is unable to provide the facility and like other governments the world over are doing, they engage with property developers to fill up the gap.
But it is disappointing that while the housing is meant to benefit the majority of the population, they are left out because the facilities are priced out of their reach.
Let us take, for instance, the Northgate housing complex owned by the National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA) on the Great North Road in Lusaka.
Most of the housing units remain unoccupied and the surroundings are overgrown with grass because they are out of reach for many.
It is in view of this that Minister of Defence Davies Chama urged the Zambia Air Force (ZAF) to build affordable houses at its Kingsland City to make it easy for ordinary Zambians to buy them.
He said building affordable medium and low-cost houses will enable both ZAF personnel and the general public to buy them.
He was speaking when he laid the foundation stone for the construction of Ibex Aviation Town Primary School.
Mr Chama said he had received complaints from members of the public that housing units which are being sold under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) are expensive.
It is important that property developers take heed to Mr Chama’s advice on the cost of housing units to avoid the tragedy of the Northgate complex.
These housing units are the ‘goods’ that should benefit both the developers and the buyers but it becomes a tragedy for both if the benefits accrue to neither.
A developer will only enjoy the benefits of the units if they are bought and occupied by tenants while tenants can also access them if they are not priced out of their financial reach.
So it is important that either side, the developer and the buyer, meet each other halfway and no-one should be disadvantaged in the quest to help Government provide decent housing.
It is also cardinal for property developers to bear in mind that there is a variety of clients who need to access their units and so they should be given options that suit their financial capacity.
At the same time, those offering mortgages could offer a number of options for ordinary Zambians to afford decent housing.
The housing deficit needs to be narrowed now before it gets out of hand.

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