Normally, during a recession, the property market is the one that takes a knock.
However, this week, the Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) revealed a shocker that it was ‘business as usual’ at the government parastatal.
The corporation’s Public Relations Manager, Mookodi Seisa, told Sunday Standard that they still have people queuing to buy their property or to lease it and that they are on target of constructing new houses.
BHC has set a target of building 1372 houses around the country this year and Seisa was hopeful they will meet the goal.
In the next financial year, he said that they are planning to increase that figure slightly to 1387.
“I am confident that we will meet the targets as we have done before,” he said.
Seisa explained that the reason for the corporation’s performance at a time when other industries in the country are retrenching is because they mostly deal with clients who are working in other industries other than the mining industry.
Mining has been hard hit by global recession.
Such clients, he said, are still able to get loans from banks to pay for their mortgages to buy houses.
This is not the case with those working in the mining industry who are currently finding it difficult to get loans because of the recession.
He admitted that they still have problems of arrears, but that it is currently manageable and does not worry them much.
“We do have arrears, as is always the case with businesses, but it is manageable and we closely monitor that,” he pointed out.
However, he said that they are worried by some Batswana who are still do not regard home ownership as an investment and who, after buying them, sell them to foreigners instead of keeping them.
“Batswana should learn that if they buy a house it is an investment that should not be easily sold away,” he stressed.
He said that BHC has not changed from its mandate of only selling houses to citizens and citizens owned companies.
He said the fact that Batswana still prefer to buy BHC houses is a good sign that they are still carrying out their task of building affordable houses for Batswana despite accusations labeled against them that they are building unaffordable houses.
“We are still the cheapest in the market for property buyers,” he said.
Asked if the recession had not affected them in regard to the houses they have build for mining companies in various places around the country, he said: “We have built the houses for such companies and they have paid up front for them and do not owe us.”
This arrangement, he said, had been a wise move because otherwise BHC would have been hit hard by failure of the mining houses who have been hit by recession.
On challenges they are currently facing, Seisa said that the corporation had been slightly hit by the coming 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
He revealed that they are now finding it difficult to get building materials such as steel, which is being consumed by the constructions of stadiums in South Africa.
Besides that, he said specialists such as engineers have also been attracted to South Africa where they are offered better packages.
”We will pull through despite the challenges,” he vowed.
On accusations that almost all their projects are carried out by Chinese companies, Seisa admitted that it could be so and that it was because of the magnitude of their projects which are, most of the times, too big for most local contractors to undertake because of their capacities.
He explained that the reason they engage Chinese companies was because they carryout larger projects that most local companies cannot carry out.
Seisa, however, said that they had since come up with a strategy that would see big contracts broken down to give small local companies jobs.