The housing dilemma in Zimbabwe


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ZIMBABWE – The Mutare Cooperative was implemented on the ground by ZINAHCO (Zimbabwe National Association of Housing Cooperatives). This CLIFF (Community Led Infrastructure Funding Facility), delivers secure housing to the urban poor.

Within the cooperative, is a production supply for all CLIFF construction materials, from roofing materials, bricks, wooden doors, metal frames for windows and doorways.

A additional group of women make and supply bricks for houses, making up to 1,500 bricks per day using just one five-brick mold.

The ‘Miracle Group’ brick makers, Thelma Tambo (pink), Grace Mwarumba (white cap) and Shumirai Neube, at work on their brick making. They work on order for bricks and will make the bricks on location whoever orders them.

On average they can make 5,000 bricks per month and sell the bricks for 18 cents each (USD). There are members in their group and each one lives in a CLIFF house.

Two of the workers mix cement for the mold that is used for the kitchen sink.

A housing middleman and 29-year-old Nestor Sibanda board a taxi to go to Dzivarasekwa, a township outside the Zimbabwean capital Harare.

Sibanda, who is desperately looking for a room to rent, paid US$20 for the services of the middlemen, who prefers to be referred to as a ‘consultant’.

“How can a simple room go for US$100 in the townships?” Sibanda, who lived for 15 years in South Africa and returned recently to his native Zimbabwe, asked.

“My brother, things have changed a lot since you left this country. The rural people are coming to the cities in big numbers every day. And once they arrive here they don’t want to return home. They are the ones who are causing this housing crisis,” a man, who looked like the home owner’s friend, said.

“The cost of life has been rising in Zimbabwe. Everything is expensive, electricity and water bills have increased and the price of building materials keep rising.

That’s why we continue raising our rates every six months, it’s take it or leave it,” the house owner said, misrepresenting some facts.

Prices of building materials have been stable since the introduction of the use of foreign currency in Zimbabwe.

A disappointed Sibanda says good-bye to the landlord and returns empty-handed to Mbare, another Harare township where he has been sharing a small room with his brother since returning to South Africa.

Demand rises, supply stagnates

“Zimbabwe has currently few housing units for rental to keep up with rising demand, and unfortunately the quality of the existing units is not always good,” the middleman said, still refusing to identify himself.

“He’s telling the truth. I went to view two rooms in Hillside and Braeside, which were going for US$120 and US$150, and guess what the first one did not have a door, while the second’s windows were all broken. The owners kept telling me that this problem can be solved in about an hour if I pay,” Ady Ndebele said.

“I didn’t pay because I don’t trust these dishonest landlords,” she added.

“All over the world, renting a room or a flat in and around the city centre is always expensive, and in the Zimbabwe case people are expected to pay even more because the housing situation in this country remains in crisis,” housing consultant Gift Marechera, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the sector, said.

“It has been like this since 2005, when the slum clearance programme (Operation Murambatsvina) made about one million people homeless, who are yet to be given decent accommodation.

It was an ill-conceived decision to say the least,” a housing ministry source said on condition of anonymity.

“Now we are grappling with a housing backlog of about 1.5 million units. It is said about US$200 million is needed every year to begin solving the backlog. Where will this money come from?” the source wondered.

Old houses, new prices

“Most of the houses that these middlemen are showing their customers were built a long time ago, about 20, 30 years ago. The owners are just repainting these rooms and putting them on the rental market at higher prices, which is a pity really,” Marechera said. What continues to baffle tenants is the manner in which landlords charge electricity and water fees.

“On what basis is a tenant who is already paying US$100 monthly for a room asked to pay another US$30 for electricity and US$20 for water,” John Mhlanga said.

A 30-year-old taxi driver concurred: “I live alone in this room and go out every day at 5am and only come back around 11pm. I bath and go straight to bed. I don’t use that much electricity because of the frequent and long power cuts in this country. How come asks me to pay US$50 for both power and water? Does he have meter readers in my room to determine the amount that I use?”

A tertiary institution student from Bulawayo who studies in Harare and pays US$200 for a single room without hot water, urged the government to intervene and stop landlords taking advantage of poor tenants.

Government’s future housing plans

Government recently announced plans for a massive housing programme – the Own Your Own Home Scheme – which is meant to reduce the shortage of houses in the country. It is envisaged that the housing scheme will provide 300 000 residential stands (plots) by 2018.

Early this year, the government awarded a contract to China-Africa Construction Limited to take care of the Magamba Housing project in the capital city, Harare, at a cost of about US$2 million.

The government says it plans to provide 250 000 low income houses in five years under the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation.

The government is believed to have allocated about US$20 million in the 2015 budget to fund housing development projects to ease the housing crisis.

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