Housing coops frustrated over land

Conrad Dube

HOUSING cooperatives have expressed concern over the slow progress in getting land for housing development under the National Housing Delivery Programme.



ana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Under the programme, government acquires peri-urban farms for housing development.


The programme was announced in December 2003 but the cooperatives say the process of land allocation has taken longer than expected.


The Community Action Group on Housing raised these concerns this week at a meeting with the parliamentary portfolio committee on Local Government.


The Community Action Group is made up of housing groups working on housing development for low to ultra-low income urban dwellers.


Housing People of Zimbabwe, Civic Forum on Housing, Dialogue on Shelter, Zimbabwe National Association of Housing Cooperatives (Zinahco) and Zimbabwe Homeless Peoples Federation are some of the organisations that make up the action group.


The group cited Harare as one of the areas where there are serious problems of land allocation.


“Zinahco had consultations with the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing since the announcement of the programme.

The association submitted an application for cooperatives in Harare, Chitungwiza and Ruwa but not a single cooperative has been allocated land,” the group said.


It appears, according to the cooperatives, that most of the farms that have been earmarked for housing projects have already been settled and the ministry has confirmed the settlers as the beneficiaries.


“No allocation has taken place, especially in Harare, to consider those who were still waiting for approval from the Local Government ministry to develop any of the designated farms. It still remains quite unclear whether the beneficiaries are utilising all the land,” the cooperatives said.


The action group called on the parent ministry to do an audit on the occupied farms and decide whether they were being fully utilised by the beneficiaries.


The cooperatives said local authorities had in the past failed to help their members realise their objectives, citing unavailability of land for them to start housing projects.


They said access to finance was also an area of major concern.

“Efforts by low-income groups to access housing finance have not yielded any meaningful results. Their savings are continuously being eroded when there is no actual allocation of stands going on,” the cooperatives said in their submissions.


In the past, access to finance for low-income groups has largely been through donor aid by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid).


The funds have been channelled through building societies, which have had limited impact on the intended beneficiaries. Building societies still consider lending to low-income groups as high risk.


“This perceived high risk-element of the formal finance market has affected the ability of these institutions to reach out to the poor, who are in real need of financial assistance, even with donor-funded housing programmes,” the organisations said.


In cases where mortgages have been considered, the loans have been so small as to make very little impact.


“Under the USAid programme, a person earning $30 000, which is the threshold for accessing such loans, will qualify for a mortgage of not more than $700 000. The cost of building a 28-square metre unit is estimated at $15 million. The maximum loan amounts are still not adequate to build a core house, making it difficult for the low-income to afford decent housing.”

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