Shack dwellers say mass houses too small

July 8, 2015, 7:58am

Shack dwellers say mass houses too small

By Adam Hartman

ABOUT 26 families living in Swakopmund's DRC informal settlement, who qualified for housing units built under the mass housing programme, have complained that these units are too small to accommodate all their belongings and family members.
They are also questioning why they must now give up their erven in DRC where some have lived for nearly 15 years, and why their relatives cannot remain in the shacks; or why they are not allowed to build ghettos on the erven to accommodate their families.
“They (the Swakopmund municipality) moved us to DRC where we had to pay N$50 a month for the erf where we have been staying since 2002. This is our home, and what we built and accumulated over the years, and our families have grown too, with children and grandchildren. Now they give us mass houses which are too small. What does the municipality expect us to do?” members of the group asked, not wanting to be named for fear of victimisation.
According to the group, they were moved to the DRC initially because of the upgrading of the single quarters in Meduletu (Mondesa) but they never moved back because they never received instructions on how or when to move back. Instead, they remained in the DRC until other opportunities - such as the Build Together programme (BTP) and mass housing initiative arose.
The group eventually became housing applicants through the BTP, which was absorbed into the mass housing project. The applicants were allocated houses according to their incomes and most of them qualified for the low-cost Core 5 unit for which they will pay a N$670 subsidised monthly installment.
The families have till end of July to move into their new houses. They also must pull down their shacks to make way for further development of the area.
Some have already moved into their new houses, but kept the shacks too where they left some of their belongings and family members. They argue that the DRC erven were registered in their names and have erf numbers. Thery want them to be registered in their children's names.
“Where must our children and grandchildren go? Where must we put the rest of our stuff?” they asked. “Other people, including some who work for the municipality, also have two or more erven.” 
The group claims that it would be better for them to stay on in their shacks in the DRC, but the only challenge is the lack of services such as the provision of water, electricity and a sewerage network, which the mass house units have.
“For now we will not pull our homes (shacks) down. Our rights are being taken away. The President must come and intervene,” they said. 
Swakopmund CEO Eckart Demasius said the DRC erven were never meant to be permanent, hence residents paid only N$50 a month rent until they could be accommodated on serviced land. 
He added that those who applied for the units were the only ones to benefit - not members of the extended family.
“We're not going to give you a house with six bedrooms just because you have six children,” he said.
Demasius said like any other lease agreement, once a tenant gives notice or is given notice to move, they have to stick to that notice; so these beneficiaries who have signed for mass houses have to vacate the DRC erven.
“You cannot have two erven. You can have one or the other. If they do not want the house and want to stay in the shack they forfeit their houses for someone else to get, but their stay in the shack will not be permanent. Sooner or later they will have to move to make way for development,” warned Demasius, adding that 30% of the DRC's population will be relocated to allow for development.
“The DRC people must expect imminent changes,” he said.
He said the issue of erecting ghettos adjacent to the house defeats the purpose of eliminating the backyard shacks.
Municipal manager for general community development services Mike Iipinge said the municipality has a headache regarding applications for land and that many people are hoping they will cash in on it.
He said council is clear that land is not for enrichment. It will only be those who adhere to the conditions and qualify that will benefit.
“People must understand that we are not going to just chase them away but there is upgrading taking place and so there will be movement. There will be changes coming,” said Iipinge.

The Namibian