Municipality calls for calm

The ongoing housing shortage in Walvis Bay took centre stage recently when shack dwellers attempted to illegally occupy public land in Kuisebmond, which led to a clash with police earlier this week. The municipality urged for these dwellers to remain calm, as they focus on solving the low income housing crisis.
The municipality in a media statement explains:
“Over the last couple of years the illegal occupation of vacant public land by a number of shack dwellers has become more apparent as people are drawn to major urban areas in search of jobs. In this regard, Walvis Bay has attracted many such people due to its growing economy in terms of increased industrialisation, logistics opportunities, tourism and a promising SME sector, among others. These are in addition to the fishing industry, which has always attracted large num-bers of job seekers.
As the demand for housing has increased, and people struggle to find adequate shelter, the number of backyard shack dwellers has also increased exponentially. Due to the exploitative nature associated with rental charges applied to shack dwellers, many have moved out of the backyards and chosen to occupy public land illegally. This has occurred on several occasions in Walvis Bay, with sometimes unpleasant consequences for all concerned.
When it comes to the delivery of municipal services, the Municipality has been under huge pressure to cope as a result of an ever-increasing influx of people to areas where congestion has become the norm. Providing services to occupants of informal housing is extremely challenging. The probability of cost recovery is virtually non-existent, yet access to those services is being delivered and sustained, while infrastructure still needs to be maintained.
In order to alleviate the housing shortage, Council has identified Farm 37 as a possible solution. Extensive consultations with the public as well as NAMPAB have been conducted. The latter is currently evaluating Council’s amended application, and if approved the rest of the procedures would still have to be followed. There are no shortcuts unfortunately as all the stakeholders in this process are required to follow the law. Some of NAMPAB’s recommendations included consultations with the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Roads Authority and Civil Aviation. All of these institutions have indicated in principle that they have no objections to the establishment of Farm 37 as a new township. Council’s amended submission to NAMPAB is expected to feature on the board’s agenda during the course of this month (May 2017).
Apart from Council’s efforts to address the housing problem, residents – especially shack dwellers – are encouraged to join self-help groups, such as the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia, that will enable them to save money and eventually place them in a position where they can collectively purchase block erven, on which they can build smaller and affordable types of housing.
Council remains committed to improving conditions for all and would assist people to acquire their own housing as long as circumstances permit. One of the medium to long term solutions in this regard is that investors are being encouraged to build blocks of flats which can be leased to people who qualify. The cooperation of informal housing occupants would therefore be crucial. These issues must be discussed, ideas exchanged and solutions found.
The Council’s position is that no conditions should be created where living is not dignified and where a clear transgression of the law has taken place. Council’s policy has always been to consult widely and not to accede to threats and demands, which never contribute to any solution. Solutions require a shared responsibility, and even those attempting to occupy land illegally would have to contribute something at the end of the day.
It is within this context that Council had to obtain the necessary assistance from the Police to remove groups of people who have recently started to occupy public land illegally. The area in question is part of a new extension in Kuisebmond, which has been purchased by the National Housing Enterprise for the purpose of residential development. Transfer of the said property is to take place in due course.
In addition, some erven in the same vicinity that have also been targeted for illegal occupation, had already been set aside for residents whose names appear on the waiting list of the Build Together scheme (which was on hold due to a Government directive but has been revived).
The claim that some residents have been allowed by Council to erect informal structures on public land is incorrect. Although some informal structures have been erected by some individuals and their families, the area in question, namely Erf 6488 and Erf 6489, has been sold to a private individual who has agreed to accommodate them temporarily.

Council has obligations towards all residents of Walvis Bay, and health and safety standards cannot be ignored. The problem of housing and serviced land is one of Council’s top priorities, but time is needed to prove that these intentions are meant sincerely.”

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