The Sunday Mail
Sunday Mail Reporters
The demand for home ownership has escalated over the past few years with more than 3 000 new applicants joining Harare city council’s waiting list every month, The Sunday Mail investigations has established.
The demand has been triggered by the council’s failure to allocate stands to those on the waiting list. Failure by Government to meet the ballooning housing demand has also led to the chaotic mushrooming of informal settlements, overcrowding in most high-density suburbs, unsanctioned connections of water, sewer and electricity among other challenges.
The situation is not peculiar to Harare alone as it has also spread to most cities with Chitungwiza being the hardest hit as Government seeks to demolish the illegal structures built on wetlands.
Harare Council’s Education, Health and Housing and Community Services Committee Chairperson Cllr Charles Nyatsuro said backlog has remained half a million and citizens are now losing confidence in council as city has run out of land.
“Our backlog has not changed much in the past years, it currently stands at 500 000 with some new applications coming in while others are also renewing their applications.
“Most people has lost hope and confidence in council because we have run out of land. We are only left with stands in Budiriro and infils in different areas around Harare.”
“Every month there has been an increase in the number of people who renew their applications and go on the waiting list. They do so because being on council’s waiting list for at least six months is a pre-requisite for acquiring some financial institutions’s stands (CABS),” explained Cllr Nyatsuro.
In Chitungwiza, there has been management and rampant abuse of the housing waiting list by some council officials and illegal land barons.
This has seen desperate home seekers remaining on the council’s housing waiting list for the past three decades.
Chitungwiza Town Clerk Mr Gorge Makunde confirmed that their municipality has a staggering waiting list of up to 4 500 people.
“We have witnessed quite a number of problems in the past years due to people who were allocating themselves stands without council authority thereby compromising the waiting list,” he said.
“The demand of stands is too high and as town council we are failing to meet demand. The 4 500 figure does not guarantee that everyone will have a stand because its prohibitive thus the demand will remain high,” said Mr Makunde.
Harare Residents Trust Director Mr Precious Shumba said home ownership has become a challenge in the city thereby giving rise to bogus land barons who masquerade as legal land owners and developers.
“Housing delivery in urban areas remains a serious challenge among the citizenry .Residents, desperate for accommodation, have been exposed to criminals using housing co-operatives and other housing development initiatives, and have been duped of their hard earned money. Property owners are making unjustified money from exploiting tenants by charging huge sums of money in rentals making urban life unbearable”, said Mr Shumba.
“Residents have lost confidence in local authorities on housing delivery because thousands of home seekers have been on the waiting lists of councils for over a decade, corruption must be dealt with.”
Mr Shumba added that figures of the number of people on the waiting lists are estimated in the 2014 national budget to be around 1,3 million in Zimbabwe.
According to the new constitution, everyone has the right to own land.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) venerates the same and states that “the State and all agencies of Government at every level must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to them, to enable every person to have access to adequate shelter”.
Rental Manager of Seeff Properties Ms Patience Munetsi said a number of customers turning out from their low density houses are preferring medium and high density suburbs due to prohibitive rentals in the low density suburbs.
“Since the beginning of this year to date, our market percentage has decreased due to financial problems that have been hindering everyone in the country. A number of people are opting to move out of low density area properties due to high rentals. Others opt to negotiate rentals but still default payment.
“It is high time local authorities provide stands and accommodation that is affordable to everyone for both the low and high income earners,” said Munetsi.
Investigations carried out by The Sunday Mail reflect that high income earners occupy low density suburbs while some own stands in many parts of the country. A disgruntled tenant who resides in a Harare low density suburb expressed his desire to have his own house.
“The mushrooming of bogus land barons is scary, the local authorities must make land available so that we are not conned,” he said.
In all the country’s ten provinces, rentals are generally high though they differ for high, medium and low density suburbs.