Economic crisis forces Govt to revise housing target

Government has revised downwards the number of houses it had targeted to build by 2023 due to resource challenges and is now planning to build flats to decongest urban areas while modernising rural areas at the same time, Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities, Daniel Garwe has said.

Through its command housing initiative, the government in 2018 had said it would deliver 470 000 houses by 2023 but has revised the figure down to 200 000.

According to the housing minister, Zimbabwe has a waiting list of 1.5 million people and by building flats in communities – taking a vertical approach – the country would provide accommodation while conserving land for agricultural use.

Garwe sold this vision to Bulawayo’s provincial state minister, Judith Ncube and her counterpart of Matabeleland South, Abdenico Ncube Wednesday in the city where he met with them to discuss initiatives meant to alleviate housing shortages.

The meetings were, however, held separately, as each provincial minister was accompanied by respective local authorities who put forward their housing concerns.

“In 2018 when President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the command housing initiative, the government was supposed to be delivering 470 000 houses by 2023 but due to several challenges, we revised the target to 200 000 by 2023.

“We are all aware of challenges Zimbabwe has gone through from 2018 to date, such as the effects of drought which affected our agricultural season, natural disasters and currently Covid-19 that hasn’t spared treasury,” Garwe said.

He claimed by working with the private financial sector, the government would be able to build the 200 000 houses for individuals, institutional accommodation and amenities.

“We have had several meetings with our private sector players such as the banking community, insurance companies and pension funds, corporate world, members of the international community in terms of banks, who are all coming on board,” the minister said.

Some of the banks, Garwe mentioned are the National Building Society, ZB Bank – who has done work in Ruwa and Zvishavane, CABS, FBC and POSB.

“We have had a serious discussion with these institutions and said the government doesn’t have adequate financial resources to be funding all these initiatives on its own yet we have land and want to create partnerships and form special purpose vehicles critical to every developmental area. We will identify land in our urban and rural areas and motivate developments along those lines,” he said.

The minister noted 60 percent of civil servants were based in rural areas, which was why the government was focusing on ‘reverse engineering’ to provide decent accommodation and a block of flats would also be ideal in such settings.

“For housing purposes, you have the land. We are not looking for huge tracts of land because the dynamics have changed. We are not going to construct horizontally but will build vertically in rural communities. We want to be building blocks of flats – up to four floors called walk-up flats – the same you find in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and we want to have that type of accommodation delivered to Rural District Councils,” he said.

The advantages of such initiatives, Garwe said would decongest the ‘already’ congested urban areas in terms of infrastructure, roads, water, sewer and energy.

“Zimbabwe is a country whose economy is predominantly agriculture and if we continue providing housing on an expansive horizontal approach we would eat into agricultural land. By the time we finish building houses in this country there will be no land for agriculture and would have created a new disaster of hunger. The government is now aware of this and is deliberately saying let’s focus more on single-story houses. We are going to focus more on vertical construction, vertical spaces are so open and need to be utilised,” he said.

But the minister highlighted the flat construction would be limited to four floors due to energy challenges.

“We don’t have adequate energy right now to drive our elevators to 60 floors. But the vertical benefits cut road networks. If you are going horizontal or single-story you need several roads that lead into several houses and a lot of water, sewer network in terms of pipework into hoses. If it’s vertical you have one straight road between blocks of flats, then two trenches of water and sewer, even Wi-Fi in the same trench resulting in massive cost reduction,” Garwe noted.

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