… houses hurriedly produced are done poorly

Namibia has a shameful housing backlog. Tens of thousands of people want to buy small homes, but cannot – there are none in the market in their price range. The Mass Housing Project (MHP) that crashed five years ago was supposed to address this. However, houses remain incomplete or not built at all. Some are finished but remain unoccupied. And now, complaints are coming from those who bought low-cost houses that foreshadow an unpleasant backstory. Houses completed in haste due to political pressure may have been built poorly.

According to complaints, many of the low cost houses at Helao Nafidi show signs of structural deficiency. And yet, families have only lived there for three months. There have been similar complaints from other low-cost housing developments in Namibia.

Homes must be well-built. Throwing bricks, cement, door and window frames and roofing in a pile and shaping them into a house and painting it does not make it a home for a family.

Ohangwena officials admit that there were no building inspectors on site to monitor construction of the houses. This is against the law.

First time homeowners struggling to pay their bonds are now the owners of property that was poorly built. The buildings they live in likely no longer have the same value for which they purchased it.

It is already a major challenge that the Helao Nafidi houses have no water or electricity connected. But, at least the buyers knew about that substandard situation and made a choice. Finding homes built poorly underneath the fresh paint was a nasty surprise.

When first-time home buyers take that proud leap into property ownership, it takes all that they have to make it work. To see their precious home with cracked walls and gaps between the roof and ceilings is an unpleasant shock. When they endure cold winds and rain that come through the walls, their dreams go down the drain.

That calamity occurred because of the political push to get ‘houses’ built or completed on a particular time schedule. Those wishing to collect compliments for providing houses put emphasis on handing over keys rather than quality.

National political speeches cite numbers of completed houses handed over to families. Now, we must have in our minds the image of un-serviced, poorly made residences. Housing statistics must only include decent homes, not uninspected concoctions.

It is likely that some MHP contractors that misused advance payments and could not complete their obligations. Others were never paid for work done. Both are being pushed aside or pressed to finish.

Someone with expertise must watch the store. Namibia gets ripped off constantly because the wrong people lead high-value programs. Knowledgeable house builders should work with officials to supervise low cost housing projects.

By the time these rushed houses begin to show their poor conditions, the spotlight has shifted to something else. The creaking, leaking and slowly collapsing house is the residents’ problem.

Those responsible for the housing confusion have successfully run for cover. With the pandemic raging, national economic distress, unemployment skyrocketing, and regional/local elections coming, the country is distracted. The traumatized public (due to cut salaries or lost jobs) has little interest in cracked walls of housing developments.

Namibians must defend themselves and stop looking for a hero. Those with defective houses should organize and force a change. People must stop accepting it when they are taken for granted. Grocery stores routinely sell stale bread, expired goods and spoiled fresh produce and meat. Clothing stores sell items that fall apart in the wash. People accept this and rarely call the manager and complain or return the goods. And now, we have low cost homes that are poorly constructed. People must endlessly shout about their case until those responsible fix the problems.

The people living in those poorly built low cost houses must video the defects and narrate the story; post it online. They must hire a lawyer and bring a class action law suit for millions. That will slam the responsible parties back onto the hot seat in a hurry. A solution will soon follow.

Haste makes waste is an old adage, but a true one. Blindly rushing to complete a home, kills people’s dreams. Those responsible must be held accountable.