A piece in the Times of Zambia discusses our current housing shortage. Nothing substantive beyond reminding us that the Government is apparently taking forward "a squatter implementing programme". We have previously discussed the limitations of current Government policy here.
Zambia tackles housing shortage, Daily Mail, Mweelwa Muleya, Commentary
The availability of adequate housing is an important pre-requisite to national socio-economic development and is a fundamental human right. Any shortfall in the housing sector, therefore, could trigger a severe negative impact on social welfare, the environment and the overall performance of the national economy. Indeed, housing is one of the most important indicators of poverty or poverty reduction in any given country.
Zambia, like several other developing countries, has been facing a critical shortage of housing since independence. The long years of a lopsided pattern of development between rural and urban areas has resulted in high rural-urban migration without a corresponding effort to provide appropriate housing in the expanding urban regions.
Until 1996, Zambia had no housing policy that could guide action in the sector.
Information from the Central Statistical Office indicates that there was a dismal performance in the growth of the total housing stock from 1.5 million in 1991 to only 2,311,988 in the year 2001. Out of these houses, about 80 per cent of them could be classified as informal in nature with poor services provided or none at all.
Informal housing units include squatter as well as traditional housing structures.
To meet this shortfall, a minimum of 150,000 houses and a similar number is also required to be constructed annually for the next 10 years to satisfy new demand for houses all over the country. This requires increased investment and capacity in the housing sector. It is for this reason that the Government, through the Ministry of Local Government and Housing is, among other measures, facilitating the construction of housing units countrywide through local authorities, the National Housing Authority (NHA) and the private sector.
Recently, the Ministry of Local Government and Housing disbursed K600 billion to the NHA for opening up of land for house development and more than K9 billion to some local authorities for the construction of low-cost three-bed room houses and improvement of municipal services in identified settlements. The NHA is expected to identify and clear land and provide municipal services like drainages and roads to pave the way for the development of houses in selected four provincial capitals using the disbursed K600 billion.
Government, through the Ministry of Local Government and Housing, has also disbursed K7 billion (leaving a balance of K3 billion) to 10 district councils for construction of low-cost three-bedroom houses. The districts that have so far received this money are Chinsali, Chibombo, Nyimba, Senanga, Kazungula, Luwingu, Chadiza, Chongwe, Kasempa and Lufwanyama, which have received K700 million each and are yet to receive K300 million each.
Almost all of these districts have already identified the areas for development and it is important for those that have not yet done so to quickly do so to facilitate this important programme aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions of the beneficiaries.
The Ministry of Local Government and Housing has already advised the concerned districts to start the procurement process and has sent structural detailed designs for a low-cost three-bedroom house to facilitate the development of uniform structures. Water supply and sanitation facilities are critical integral parts of the designs to promote improved living conditions of the inhabitants and reduce cases of waterborne diseases such as cholera. ‘‘All these benefiting councils are supposed to send work plans, facilitate the procurement process and start building as soon as possible,’’ says David Tembo, the principal housing officer at the Ministry of Local Government and Housing .
In addition, the ministry has sent K2.2 billion to 11 local authorities for provision of municipal services such as water supply and sanitation, drainages, roads, electricity and solid waste management. This is called squatter upgrading aimed at improving the environmental standards and living conditions of the people in line with the Fifth National Development Plan and the Millennium Development Goals. The local authorities that have received K200 million each for squatter upgrading are Livingstone, Nakonde, Nyimba, Kabompo, Sesheke, Mkushi, Masaiti, Luangwa, Samfya, Mpika and Mambwe.
To facilitate the provision of funding for squatter upgrading, local authorities are supposed to provide information that includes the identified settlement/s, estimated population, number of households, legal status of the identified settlement, date of declaration as an improved area, when the settlement was established, the development status, the upgrading programme, any intervention by the local authorities and the social type of structures built.
Providing municipal services to an area that has not been declared as a legal settlement is prohibited under the Town and Country Planning Act.
However, in some cases morality and the need to save lives override the need to strictly adhere to legal dictates and the Government is moved to provide these services, especially during outbreak of diseases.
To avoid the recurrence of disease outbreaks, the Government is now implementing the squatter upgrading programme. The provision of adequate municipal services is critical to poverty reduction through improving living conditions, environmental standards and reduction of diseases.
Local authorities which are primary implementers of the Town and Country Planning Act, should be proactive in preventing illegal settlements. The local authorities are also required to be proactive in prioritising the required interventions and provide the Ministry of Local Government and Housing with work plans and budgets. This is important for effective monitoring and evaluation to promote value for money through quality assurance, efficiency, transparency and accountability.
Guaranteeing the right to decent shelter has a causal beneficial effect of meeting other basic needs such as access to clean and safe drinking water, proper sanitation, access roads, electricity, drainages and solid waste management and other issues incidental to meeting the requirements of the Town and Country Planning Act. It is for this reason that housing development, like any other infrastructure development, should be given priority in terms of timely and adequate funding as well as efficiency in the implementation process.