Zimbabwe: Multi-currency revives housing projects

The introduction of the multi-currency regime in the country revived the construction industry in Zimbabwe resulting in a boom in housing developments, especially in Harare where statistics show that over 15 000 housing stands have been developed since 2009.

Housing development had been constrained in the last days of the Zim dollar.

The construction of houses in Harare has become a noticeable feature whichever side of the city one decides to pass through. There are housing developments everywhere one goes in Harare.

The revival of housing projects in the country has seen big corporates such as Old Mutual, Fidelity Life Assurance, CFI Holdings, Nicoz Diamond and Zimre Investment Properties joining the bandwagon of property development.

Harare City Council said over 15 000 housing stands have been developed in Harare since 2009.
“There has been significant change in housing development including renovation of old houses,” said Michael Chideme, the city’s principal communications officer.

He said statistics on housing development in the city had been captured through settlement surveys.
“We also use data from council reports and plan approval documents,” Chideme said, adding that the waiting list has been greatly reduced through the development of new housing stands.

He however said the demand for housing stands still exceeded supply.

“Housing demand will always outstrip supply because of a growing population and the rural-urban migration. Since independence we have opened up new areas under home purchase ownership as opposed to rental,” he said.

Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba said the City of Harare had no capacity to deal with the housing problem and was not prepared for any major changes in the population growth rate.

“If they were [to deal with the problem of housing] they would have put in place mechanisms to deal with the growing housing demand instead of having to fight the population explosion which now has more challenges related to planning and programming,” Shumba said.

Chideme said the City of Harare was addressing the issue of illegal settlements. There are presently at least 6 000 illegal settlers in over 20 settlements in the capital.

Shumba said illegal settlements in areas such as Caledonia Farm and Ushewokunze had contributed to the large movement of people from high density areas who claim to be owners of pieces of land which in reality are illegal settlements.

“The pull factors include the failure by council to monitor cooperatives who are allocating stands that are not serviced. Tenants are running away from paying rent and rushing to put up illegal makeshift structures in unserviced areas,” Shumba said.

The council said in all planned residential settlements water and sanitation facilities were supposed to be available.

“The city is re-strategising to include more players in the housing delivery programme such as developers and financial institutions. In the past we relied on pay schemes,” HCC said.
Shumba said the emergence of new houses in Harare was a good development responding to the huge gap in terms of population growth and accommodation.

“We however have situations where some houses are built on wetlands, and that is dangerous to the environment and sustainable utilisation of open spaces. During floods, people living in the wetlands will be affected. The major challenge is that while this building on wetlands may be good for individual residents, it presents local authorities with a huge challenge,” Shumba said.

He said what was good with individual housing developments was that they reduced reducing expenditure on accommodation, leaving people with more disposal incomes.

He however said despite the increase in houses in the capital, there were still more tenants than landlords.
“However, this trend is fast changing, and we project that probably in five years time, most houses would have on average one or two lodgers, a departure from the current situation where nearly all high-density residential areas have more than three lodgers, stretching the available ablution facilities,” he said.

Shumba said the Harare City Council was not prepared for the growing population, as witnessed by the several housing cooperatives that have not been connected to water and sewerage systems.

He said corruption in the new housing development involving land barons made enforcement of construction rules difficult for poorly resourced municipalities.

The country’s housing backlog now stands at 1,25 million and government, through the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio Economic Transformation (Zim Asset), aims to construct 125 000 units in five years, between 2013 to 2018.

President of the Institute of Regional and Urban Planners Percy Toriro said the authorities should focus more on housing delivery as the gap between supply and demand has widened.

“We would want them [authorities] to invest more in public infrastructure — water and sewer — as the two directly impact on human health,” Toriro said.

He said there was need for general observance of regulations as outbreaks of cholera and typhoid were caused by failure to adhere to the regulations.

Source: The Standard, Zimbabwe

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