Zimbabwean government has been called upon to emulate Chinese model on housing delivery if the country is to meet 2030 Sustainable Development Goal on housing and safe communities.
By Problem Masau
Chinese housing delivery is anchored on President Xi Jinping’s philosophy that “accelerating housing supply is important for meeting the people’s basic need for housing and ensuring that all of them have access to housing”.
The Chinese government believes that there are always people who have housing difficulties due to labour skill mismatch, being out of a job or low income, so the government must step in to provide them with basic housing.
According to the 12th Five-year plan from 2011- 2015, China built 36 million housing units for its people.
“While making every effort to increase the housing supply, we must also do our best to satisfy the people’s demands for better housing, establish a sound system of housing standards so that houses are economical, affordable, eco-friendly, energy conserving and safe, and advocate a housing consumption mode fitting China’s conditions,” said Xi Jinping in one of his speeches captured in the book Governance of China.
Most people in Zimbabwe live below the poverty datum line and can not afford to build their dwellings hence the need for subsidized houses.
Zimbabwe can emulate Chinese government which has been providing basic needs housing for its citizens. China has stiff punishment for those who corruptly acquire basic needs housing.
“Those who acquire basic needs housing illegally must be punished in accordance with laws and regulations,” said President Xi Jinping in one of his speeches.
Zimbabwe’s current housing policy gives municipalities and private sector leading role in housing delivery while Government is meant to provide an enabling environment at a policy level and to be a facilitator for land to develop houses.
“Government should take an active role in providing housing,” said Mike Vareta, an urban planning expert adding that “councils have been taking advantage of the government’s backseat approach in corruptly parcelling out of land”.
Most low-income earners who have been on the housing waiting list on urban councils for years acknowledged that it would need a ‘miracle’ for them to ever have a roof on their head they call their own.
Some of those on the waiting list said they applied many years ago and they routinely go and check if their names still exist, with no hope in sight of ever getting a stand.
“I applied for a stand in 1993 and since then I have been waiting, but nothing have materialized, in fact we applied with my husband when we were newlyweds, but our family have since grown and we are still tenants almost twenty years down the line,” said Grace Nzvimbo.
Some people accused the housing department of corruption and helping others to ‘jump’ the queue.
“I was on the waiting list since 1998 and I thought I would get a house under the Garikai/Hlangani Kule housing scheme, but after I inquired, I found that those who were the recipients had paid the authorities or were aligned to a certain political party.
“It’s not fair because we were all affected by the clean-up exercise instigated by the government in 2005,” said Brian Gukwe.
There are also reports that some who have been on the waiting list have since died without seeing their dreams fulfilled because of the number of years one spent on the list.
“My father was on the city’s housing waiting list for years and every time he talked about it, he beamed with happiness, but because of his health, he realised that he will never own a house and he died a tenant,” said another Harare resident.
Desperate house seekers have been duped by bogus house cooperatives.
Most people said they are still reeling from the effects of housing cooperatives that give the stands on government or city council land only to be told that the cooperative did not own the land.
The City of Harare’s Housing Department has revealed that the housing backlog is standing at a whopping 500 000 residents, with 200-220 housing cooperatives not yet short-listed for any residential stands.
Zimbabwe’s housing backlog stands at a staggering 1,2 million applicants, a figure government says could soar if a proper survey is conducted.
In the book, The Governance of China, President Xi Jinping writes about the need to improve supporting policies for housing, improving land policy, giving priority to ensuring that land is used to enhance people’s wellbeing, develop a balanced land supply and giving priority to allocating land for constructing basic need housing which can be emulated by the Zimbabwean government.