Daniel Apton Phiri, Associate – AHI Zambia/Southern Africa
In the last 20 years, Zambia, like many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, has experienced a “housing boom” albeit driven mainly by the private sector and individual developers using their own resources. During the same period very few social housing and upgrading schemes have been implemented implying that nearly 70 percent of the population – mainly the urban and rural poor – have not benefited from this “housing boom”. The government has largely paid lip-service to housing provision, especially for the poor, as reflected in meager budgetary allocations and low prioritization of the sector. The poor have to fend for themselves and use their initiatives to construct homes in informal unplanned settlements which results in a plethora of urban challenges such as poor services and basic infrastructure.
Affordability is a key issue although the definition of “affordable housing” is clear. There are several on-going housing projects ranging from low cost institutional tied housing to high cost gated estates but most of these schemes are not affordable to the average Zambian. Constructing a simple low cost house requires a minimum investment of US$10,000 (UN Habitat estimate, 2012) while currently a formal low cost house is selling between US$20,000-US$50,000 on the Zambian Market. House prices in new estates are pegged from US$50,000 upwards while incomes for potential home owners remain on average are very low.
The demand for “affordable housing” in Zambia still remains very high with an estimated 1, 3 million housing units required to meet the shortfall by 2025- a big challenge for our government. The question that begs answers is “what should be done in terms of policy and other measures to make housing affordable to two-thirds of the population who urgently need decent affordable shelter?”