Govt warns of housing cheats

October 9, 2014, 9:21am

Govt warns of housing cheats

THE Ministry of Regional and Local Government warns that the waiting list for beneficiaries of the mass housing project might be tampered with by dishonest officials who might hijack the programme.

This is contained in a leaked ministerial document that explains who the beneficiaries of the project should be; the income criteria; how many houses; and the type of houses to be made available. 
Government plans to subsidise 3 600 houses valued at about N$625 million over two years.
The document titled “Mass Housing Development Programme Housing Subsidy Scheme and Beneficiaries Selection Criteria” is expected to be discussed by the stakeholders either this week or next week.
“The ministry must verify the final list against the original list submitted. This will ensure that the list will not be tampered with and that the process will be fair and transparent,” said the ministerial document. “This exercise must be carried out before the houses are completed and the handover takes place.”
The first 1 000 houses under the programme are expected to be handed over to beneficiaries this month. However, NHE sources said the issue of the list has not been finalised with the line ministry.
The ministry fears that most of the houses constructed under the programme are not low-cost and this would lead to a situation where they are acquired by people who will sell them only a few years after acquiring them.
To avoid this, government wants the beneficiaries of the scheme to be prevented from selling the houses within the first 10 years.
The same scheme was introduced in South Africa some years ago where rich business people bought several housing units meant for the poor. Most of the houses are now being rented out.
Other selection criteria suggested in the document are that the beneficiaries should be Namibian or with permanent residence, 21 years or older, first time owners, produce a police proof that they do not own another house; and must be screened of bad debts.
The ministry also warned that houses should be distributed according to correct income criteria.
For instance, the government said that if someone earns N$7 500 and qualifies for a house of N$360 000, then that person should not be allowed to buy a house of N$200 000.
“This will ensure that houses to be allocated to the intended beneficiaries as per income levels and prevent those with higher income to benefit at the expense of those with low income,” the documents states.
Another bone of contention between government and the NHE is who should be responsible of distributing the houses. 
The Namibian understands that the ministry wants to be in charge of distributing the houses, while the custodian of the project, the NHE, wants to be responsible, an operation, which a source said would be lucrative to the housing parastatal.
Sources said NHE might not benefit from its credit-linked houses in the first two years, which would eliminate the parastatal from the final stage of the housing programme, while bringing in the local authorities that have been asked to provide the ministry with their waiting lists.
There are also fears that local authorities lists might be cooked in favour of families of officials in charge. Government also warned in the subsidy report that the number of houses to be constructed should be aligned to the available funds.
The Namibian reported this week that reluctance by the NHE to renegotiate mass housing contracts could expose the parastatal to a N$2 billion debt within the project's first year.
Government plans to build 180 000 houses in phases by 2030 with the first phase having started this year and expected to run up to 2016.
NHE has refused to respond to questions regarding the multi-billion dollar project this week while efforts to get comment from the permanent secretary in the local government ministry Daniel Nghidinua were not successful.

By Shinovene Immanuel the Namibian