The Minister responsible for housing, Prince Maele is set to address the first ever land and housing press conference this coming week, 13th October 2015 at 1400hours in Gaborone. The press conference, we have been told, will be held as a way of sharing the ministry’s initiatives and some their benefits to Batswana.
“This platform will also allow the ministry to share its 2015/16 strategic direction and focus, strategies that have been put in place to improve service delivery and implementation thereof,” reads part of the invite from Chandapiwa Baputaki, on behalf of the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Thato Raphaka.
This is great initiative. Atleast from the media perspective as it would give us rare opportunities to face the powers that be and ask them on the waiting lists created by various land boards across the country.
While our policymakers wring their hands about how to build more homes, it is rather a celebratory moment to be given an opportunity to interact with the powers that be to share Batswana’s frustrations on their behalf.
We are mindful and agree with economical commentators that at the moment, there is little that government can do to regulate property prices in our cities and towns. The Rent Act Control, may we add, cannot be enforced because property owners thrive under what we have recently labeled or rather accustomed as free market. However, all things being the same, the government has a duty to protect its citizenry from the sky high property prices by coming up with affordable housing units for the majority of the working class.
Therefore we should be forgiven for perhaps prematurely making a submission to Prince Maele to ensure that on Tuesday he informs the nation of his or rather the government’s view on ‘large scale housing’. That is, building flats and multi-residential houses and then selling single units within those to individuals as compared to give a large plot to just one individual.
There are many strategies needed to facilitate house building but we believe locally-inspired large scale housing schemes could play as significant role in the delivery of a large number of houses that the southern Botswana desperately needs at the moment.
The government, we have been made aware, does not have adequate land from which to build affordable houses to mitigate the problem of soaring property prices. But how about building multi residential and flats and the little space that is left particularly in Gaborone and areas in the greater Gaborone?
On the occasion that marked the announcement of what should by now have radically changed the shape of home ownership in our country, the Government said that one of the functions of SIHA (Single Housing Authority), mandated to the Botswana Housing Corporation in 2012 will be the provision of ‘affordable’ and ‘adequate’ housing for all income categories.
As we all might be aware, the establishment of SIHA came as a result of numerous complaints by many Batswana over the past years of high cost of acquiring houses.
The upward trend resulted in some of them opting to purchase depreciating assets such as motor vehicles while others opted to purchase their houses from private firms which they considered cheaper than the subsidised BHC.
It is a sad reality that three years down the line the question that remains unanswered for aspiring home owners, especially young Batswana who just joined the labour market is whether the introduction of a single housing authority will ever result in improved home ownership at affordable prices; or it will it get even tougher to acquire a house or plot.
The utmost truth is that the Self-Help Housing Scheme, however well intended, has not addressed the housing needs of the young urban dwellers in the low and middle income brackets.
By the same token, the Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) has by far and large failed to meet the housing needs of Batswana. If anything, the BHC is a competitor in the property market whose houses are priced way beyond the reach of many of our people.
Given the fact that low to middle income prospective purchasers of houses have been shut out of the market as evidenced by the exponential increase in house prices, it is fact that one could even conclude that Botswana’s affordable housing market is non-existent.
It is quite clear that prospective buyers are fatigued due to a sustained increase in property prices over the last few years. BHC’s low cost house in Gaborone currently costs around P700, 000 but was initially at P300, 000 in 2009 while in an inactive market like Lobatse the low cost house sells for above P400, 000.
Therefore as he addresses the members of the fourth estate on Tuesday, Maele should bear in mind that lately, elsewhere, shelter has been declared a basic human need and in serious and advanced democracies it has cystalised into a right inscribed in the constitution. The #Bottomline therefore is that the high property prices in this country especially houses, call for urgent intervention by the government to adequately provide housing units that are affordable to even Batswana who are at the bottom of the income ladder. When it comes to Gaborone, there is only one way we could share the pie ÔÇô large scale housing.