The rate of expansion in informal settlements currently being experienced in most urban areas of Zimbabwe clearly shows the critical need for the government to provide low cost social housing for low-income earners. Part of this massive expansion of informal settlements in and around greater Harare and other cities has been mainly attributed to people who are selling land for profit in urban and peri-urban areas.
A few years ago government responded to the build up of informal settlements through Operation Murambatsvina, which left many people with no shelter. Efforts to provide decent accommodation after Murambatsvina only benefited a few leading to a re-emergence of informal settlements in and around urban areas. Almost 9 years after Murambatsvina government has failed to provide decent affordable housing to people, and the demand for accommodation has risen sharply forcing many to join housing cooperatives as an alternative. Land developers have cashed in on the desperate situation. There is chaos in residential stands allocation prompting government to respond with another wave of housing demolitions.
Presenting a paper on social housing under the topic “Finding a solution to the need for low cost housing” at the Netherlands Embassy, Eddie Cross said that the current housing crisis in urban areas calls for the provision of low cost housing units using local entrepreneurship skills and technology supported by bond funding. Some of the strategies suggested in the paper include upgrading and formalizing informal settlements through planning and provision of roads, water and sanitation facilities.
Zimbabwe still uses housing systems inherited from the Smith regime and some of the existing facilities no longer cope with the growing population. The refurbishing and upgrading of existing housing, like blocks of flats in Mbare, will unlock the value of the properties and make them habitable. Many residents are yet to enjoy property rights and risk losing their houses, as they do not possess the title deeds. Providing house owners with title will incentivise communities to further develop their areas and at the same time help address historical, social and political imbalances.