Home » General » Land Woes – Time to Go Vertical

Provision of adequate housing land has been nagging local authorities countrywide. With data showing local authorities like the City of Harare have a housing backlog of 500 000 while some claim it even runs into over 1 million, those in its housing department surely have sleepless nights. In the capital, babies are born every day while hundred others migrate to the city adding to the estimated 2 098 199 people counted in the 2012 census.

These children and many more to be born in future will one day marry and aspire to have their own homes when they grow up.

Their kids, too, will go through that cycle and more land to build homes will be required.

It is a fact that in Zimbabwe, building is cheaper than buying a house usually very expensive. A five-roomed house in Budiriro costs US$50 000.

A 300sqm stand in the same suburb costs US$6 000. Add the building costs, one may end up using US$30 000.

With the City of Harare’s housing waiting list moving at a snail’s pace over the past decade, the capital stretching outwards to accommodate new housing units, land also seems to be running out.

In fact, most developments that have been taking place have been horizontal on vast pieces of land owned by individuals, something most people are starting to frown upon.

Will the city have enough land for future generations if horizontal developments continue?

Is this not time to start building more vertical home units and cluster homes?

Harare residents like Mrs Rosemary Shonhiwa who has been a tenant for 15 years and on the council housing waiting list for 10 years says it is time for high rise buildings.

“We want more flats like Tagarika, Willowvale and Zambezi where people can lease from government or council. Generation after generation can stay in the same flats. This idea of permanent ownership is good but in the long run government and councils will not afford to build more,” she said.

Moses Shumba of Hatfield says : “It is common to have only one house resting on 1 hactre, land that can accommodate hundreds of families.

“Even on 300sqm up to 10 families can be accommodated if we go upwards. We should move that direction.”

Council principal communications officer Mr Micheal Chideme is optimistic that they will find a solution soon.

In fact, he says they have already found the answer is vertical development which they are now encouraging as it comes with numerous other benefits.

Most important, he says, building vertically saves on land and makes it easier to provide services like sewerage, electricity and water because of its compatibility.

He adds that Harare has also started pushing for more cluster developments where they allow owners of bigger stands to subdivide the huge piece of land and build more homes.

This is mostly taking place in Borrowdale, Greendale, Newlands and Highlands among others, he reveals.

“We are going for densification and we will achieve this through a review of local development plans.

“The review allows for mixed use in suburbs. This is also when you allow housing, business, recreation and shops to co-exist.

“The aantage of the model means people for example can stay, work and do business in Avondale,” he explains.

Mr Chideme adds that urban expansion means installing of services like sewer and water pipes and this can easily strain cash strapped councils.

It’s easier when you do cluster settlements, he says. For now, council also hopes to revamp the Mbare Flats which are in a dilapidated state creating more housing, upwards.

Mr Chideme says they are still talking with partners for the revamp of 58 Mbare hostels into better family units.

“We will build one block and decamp the other. The new blocks will be built as family units. Each family will have their own toilet and separate bedrooms just like the Tagarika Flats,” he reveals.

Without a given timeframe of the project, Mbare hostel dwellers can just hope for a quick solution or continue with the waiting game.

President of the Zimbabwe Institute of Regional and Urban Planners Mr Percy Toriro says Harare has run out of space for new developments and the city fathers should act fast.

“This has been caused by an insatiable appetite for large stands by the affluent Zimbabweans as well as failure by authorities to enforce the provisions of the Harare Master Plan. The most important policy guiding development in Harare was the densification policy. As far back as the late 80s and early 90s Town Planners had observed that the city was expanding outwards at an unsustainable rate hence the policy,” he says.

Unfortunately, Mr Toriro adds, many developments that promote urban sprawl have been approved causing Harare to expand horizontally at lightning speed.

“Land is a finite resource, you cannot allow development in an inefficient manner,” he adds.

He says building upwards is the solution to Harare’s land woes.

“What we should encourage in Harare is a massive development of flats and other high-density developments.

“We also want to disabuse people of the notion that high density is synonymous with low value.

“The truth is rich people can also live in nice high density housing. If one looks at cluster complexes in affluent areas in Joburg and even here in Borrowdale one finds that they are even more secure than individual stands. But this requires an awareness campaign,” he says.

Mr Toriro believes Harare’s housing crisis can be resolved by a determined planned programme that carefully plans on the available land.

“Coordination of such a process is key. What is happening now is most projects are individual initiatives as opposed to coordinated well-thought out programmes. “Government must take the lead supported by local authorities. Government develops the framework that other lower tiers of government then implement. In doing that, the process requires to be driven by planning teams that are open to innovation, creativity, and are pro-poor in focus,” he explains.

Property mogul and land developer Mr Eddie Pfugari has already noticed the need to manage available land.

He says cluster houses come with many benefits as lesser land is used.

And with cluster houses, he says, anyone even future generations can afford to own a house as not much space is taken up.

He has started developing cluster houses in Newlands Harare and has several other plans for areas like Knowe, Whitecliff, Gweru, Mutare and Bindura where he owns land.

For example in Norton he has set aside 20 stands for flats and several for cluster houses.

In Newlands, Mr Pfugari has developed 14 cluster houses each with three bedrooms and they are now at the box level.

“The application process at council was very easy. I encourage others to build more cluster homes and save land,” he says.

As a property developer, he says it can be hard, financially, to build the cluster houses but the results are amazing as they will impact future generations.

So far they have pumped over $250 000 the cluster units which are now on box level.

“The reason it has been lower for us is that we have our own equipment and do not need to pay for a number of things,” he says.

The Zimbabwean Constitution (Amendment Number 20) clearly recognizes housing as a basic human right.

It says the State and all its institutions and agencies at every level must take reasonable measure, within the limits of the resources available to them, to enable every person to have access to adequate shelter.

For this reason, councils should push for housing that saves land and ensure future generations enjoy this constitutional right.

Economic blueprint ZimAsset also seeks to foster the delivery of decent housing under the social services and poverty eradication cluster.

Quick wins to be implemented within ZimAsset’s Social Service and Poverty Reduction Cluster include the provision of land for housing and embarking on aggressive housing programmes.

The Zimbabwe National Housing Policy of 2012 admits that there is a huge housing backlog that is the number of new housing units and facilities needed as well as old units and facilities needing refurbishment. “Although no comprehensive assessment has been done at least 1 million new units are estimated as the backlog across all housing types.

“Delivery of housing has been constrained by a number of factors.

“Structural constraints at the macro and sector levels slowed land delivery, dried up housing finance, made expansion of trunk services nearly impossible and drained capacity in key institutions. These combined to stall progress in supplying new (housing) units and maintaining existing ones. Investment levels by the state and non-state sectors have been low,” the policy states.

Source : The Herald