Low-income houses: A dream home that is out of reach

The dream of a secure, permanent home lures many Zimbabweans into these schemes. However, the waiting list at the council low-income housing has left many with little or no hope and some have suggested the removal of a waiting list fee.

Across Zimbabwe's urban landscape, a patchwork of low-income housing schemes paints a picture of both hope and hardship. These government-initiated projects aim to provide affordable shelter for the country's poorest residents, but the reality on the ground is often far from ideal.

The dream of a secure, permanent home lures many Zimbabweans into these schemes. However, the waiting list at the council low-income housing has left many with little or no hope and some have suggested the removal of a waiting list fee.

According to Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) director-general Taguma Mahonde the country is facing a housing crisis that has left nearly half of its urban population of almost 5,7 million people living in rented accommodation, while the national housing waiting list stands at over two million. He made the revelations while presenting the 2022 housing and population census results.

Speaking at the Local Governance Learning and Exchange Summit (LGLExS) hosted by the Alliance of Community Based Organisations (ACBOS) , personal assistant in the ministry of local government Silvester Chin'anga said people should always consider the cost benefit of introducing new policies.

“Let’s do the necessary checks and balances when we try to look for inclusivity and avoid piece meal inclusivity. Regarding the issues of waiting lists, people have been on waiting lists for a long time, which is true but when did the local authorities last construct their own houses to allocate people. Let’s engage and find a solution to what we believe we can do. Remember there are some dangers coming with introducing new ideas and if there is no waiting list how will you know who came first or second in that order,” he added.

Local authorities have been grappling with economic constraints and corruption, often struggling to complete construction projects on time or within budget. This leaves beneficiaries stranded in unfinished structures, vulnerable to the vagaries of weather and crime.

Even when completed, many low-income housing units lack basic amenities like running water and proper sanitation. Residents rely on communal taps and pit latrines, posing health risks and hygiene concerns, especially for young children. The infrastructure, often poorly constructed or maintained, deteriorates rapidly, adding to the residents' woes, especially persons with disabilities.

In an interview with NewsDay, ACBOS project coordinator Merjury Mhlanga said:

“The housing allocation process is largely shrouded with opaqueness which creates opportunities for corruption”

“As CBOs we continue to engage with our local authorities so that they adhere to the existing transparency mechanisms in place. Section G1 of the Manual for the Management of Urban Land specifies that all Councils are obliged to maintain waiting lists which should be updated annually and everyone on the waiting list should be open to public inspection.

One woman from Bindura who spoke to NewsDay on condition of anonymity said the many young women in Bindura have no access to low income houses due to corruption at the local authorities.

"I have been on the waiting list since 2017 and my subscriptions are up to date but we see people coming from as far as Bulawayo to get stands because they have hard cash on hands which perpertuate inequalities. I think local authorities should introduce laws which promote transparency and accountability going forward," she said.

The rising cost of housing in many cities has resulted in a severe shortage of low-income housing opportunities. Rent prices continue to increase at a rate much higher than wages, leaving individuals and families with limited options. As a result, they are often forced to settle for substandard living conditions or spend a significant portion of their income on rent, leaving little room for other basic necessities.

Public inspection is important in enhancing the transparency of the Housing allocation process. As CBOs we continue to engage local authorities on this as this will strengthen monitoring mechanisms. As CBOs we also empower communities to engage duty bearers using research backed advocacy,” she added

Advocacy officer for Nkomwa Foundation Trust (NFT) Norman Mudadisi told NewsDay that the conditions to low-income houses are not favourable to PWDs as few can afford to pay their subscriptions.

“The main issue is the poverty and the background of PWDs as most of them are less privileged. I propose that the government should have a reasonable payment plan for PWDs to ensure inclusivity,” he said.

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