HOUSING is essential to national development and socio-cultural growth in any human society.
That is why it is universally recognised as the second most essential human need after food. It is also regarded a vital economic asset in every nation.
Internationally, housing is acknowledged as a factor for the assessment of human development and societal civilisation.
That is why we commend Government on the launch of a US$80 million private sector-driven rent-to-own housing scheme, which will benefit 20,000 civil servants and parastatal company employees.
The project, which will take off next year as soon as the rainy season ends, has come at a right time when the nation is grappling with a housing deficit that currently stands at about 1.5 million.
Zambia has been greatly affected by rapid urbanisation, with an estimated 40 percent of the national population living in urban areas, which is projected to increase to 60 percent by 2050, representing a five times growth in absolute numbers.
Yet, the country has in the last five years seen unprecedented infrastructure development of roads, schools and hospitals, as well as creation of new districts under the decentralised framework.
In response to urban development challenges, Government has not sat back, it has included a chapter on inclusive cities in the Seventh National Development Plan, which was recently launched by President Lungu.
Government is also reviewing the spatial planning legislation, which has resulted in the repeal of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1963 and the Housing (statutory and improvement) Areas Act of 1974, through the enactment of the Urban and Regional Planning Act no 3 of 2015; began the preparation of the national urbanisation policy in partnership with UN Habitat to address urbanisation challenges.
Therefore, the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between National Housing Authority (NHA) and project implementer Zhongmei Engineering Group Limited for the construction of 20,000 houses for civil servants and parastatal company employees, is a step in the right direction.
The houses, to be built across the country and mainly along the line of rail, will help alleviate the housing shortage.
It will also bring dignity to civil servants and public service workers are currently facing hardships regarding accommodation.
Following the sale of council and Government houses by the MMD administration, civil servants and parastatal employees have been exposed to steep rentals, which are well beyond their housing allowances.
The construction of the 20,000 units will therefore be a relief to our hardworking civil servants and parastatal employees.
We call upon the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Development and the NHA to be transparent in the administration of this well-intended scheme.
We also hope that to expedite the construction of the housing units, Government could utilise the Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force, Zambia Correctional Services and the Zambia National Service.
This will not only help empower Correctional Services, ZAF, Army and ZNS but contribute to skills transfer from the massively experienced and skilled Zhongmei Engineering Group Limited to our men and women in uniform.