Zoning approval delays swell housing backlog

Paul Nyakazeya



ZIMBABWE’S housing backlog will continue to rise unless government adopts legislation that compels local authorities to speed up zoning and pla

nning procedures for residential properties, a property analyst aid this week.


Empire Architects and Planners director, Richard Padzarondora, told businessdigest that residential property developments mostly in small towns had been hampered by delays in obtaining zoning and planning rights from local authorities.


“Unless government puts the right legislation in place to speed up approval processes, Zimbabwe will not be able to alleviate its current housing shortage,” Padzarondora said.


Figures from the city of Harare indicate that as at December 31 2004 Harare’s housing waiting list had grown to over 300 000.


Sources indicate that the backlog for all urban areas’ waiting lists could be well over two million.


Property experts say the figure has increased by about 50% over the past year because of displacement of urbanites under the government’s infamous operation demolishing illegal dwellings in urban centres around the country launched in May last year.


Government announced two years ago that it intended to provide 250 000 housing units a year to clear the urban housing backlog by 2008.


Padzarondora said a process taking less than six months in other regional countries was taking close to three years in Zimbabwe.


“The property market can change quite dramatically in three years. So what constituted a viable project in year
one may not be commercially viable in year three when approvals are eventually in place, moreso as building costs are increasing at an alarming rate,” Padzarondora said.


He blamed lack of capacity at local authority level as well as haphazard management of township development processes for the delays.


Inefficiencies in the planning and approval processes had seen a huge increase in developers’ holding costs, eroding already thin profit margins.


“Current laws are not only holding up and preventing development on a broader scale but also stifling the ability to produce creative projects to deliver affordable housing,” said Padzarondora.

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