The sale of Government houses and flats to sitting tenants has been halted with immediate effect as part of measures to address shortages of accommodation for civil servants, with more housing to be built through a revival of the National Housing Fund and private sector initiative.
The decision to dispose of Government properties to sitting tenants was made in the late 1980s as an empowerment initiative that resulted in the disposal of at least 75 percent of State-owned housing, with only the uniformed services and the Health Ministry hanging on to most of their housing.
There was little corresponding construction of new houses and flats to replace those sold, resulting in the current shortages of accommodation for civil servants, a shortage that devolution will accentuate until more houses and flats are built in provincial centres.
At its sitting yesterday, Cabinet reversed the policy of selling Government properties to sitting tenants following a presentation by National Housing and Social Amenities Minister Daniel Garwe of a proposal to revive the National Housing Fund to address the general housing demand in the country.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said after the meeting that Cabinet was told that there was a countrywide demand of two million housing units, while local authorities’ waiting lists had a demand of 1,5 million housing units, inclusive of civil servants’ requirements.
Minister Mutsvangwa said Cabinet noted that planned devolution was creating structures at provincial level that required more housing for personnel in provincial centres while staff movements through transfers and promotions had compounded the accommodation challenges.
“With a view to alleviating the accommodation challenges, Cabinet approved as follows: to recapitalise the National Housing Fund and the Housing Guarantee Fund portfolios, and to institute forthwith a moratorium on the disposal of Government pool properties.
“Suitable land will be availed across the country for the engagement of building brigades in the construction of Government pool houses in line with a comprehensive national housing provision programme, whose chief aim is to empower citizens and civil servants, including those in rural areas,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
She said the Government would use the model of multi-storey flats and higher densities of housing as it builds more accommodation to use land optimally and provide amenities efficiently and at manageable costs.
Blocks of flats allow more homes to be built for the same amount of material and higher densities mean more homes can be serviced by every kilometre of expensive roads, sewers, water pipes and electricity mains.
“In line with the Second Republic’s thrust of private sector-driven development, the private sector, pension funds, banks will be facilitated to partner with other sources of funding in order to avail resources for housing construction.
“A user-friendly mortgage system will be designed for the purpose of easing the burden of home-ownership for various categories of citizens,” she added.
The Government has already started rolling out 200 000 affordable houses and flats in partnership with the private sector. The programme has started in Norton with the development of 2 200 stands on KockMallock estate.
More land for development of the housing programme is still being identified across Zimbabwe.
Shelter Afrique, a Pan-African bank, has put a facility of US$65 million to fund housing through building societies and the Urban Development Corporation (Udcorp) under the housing programme.
Cabinet also discussed strategies to ensure agricultural productivity in the forthcoming season.
The main thrust is to ensure farmers have inputs ready and waiting on the farms when the rains start falling so they do not waste part of the season and so Cabinet resolved to speed up the distribution of inputs to farmers under the support programmes already being implemented by Government.
The main programmes under which farming activities are being resourced include the Climate-Proofed Presidential Input Scheme, the Command or Smart Agriculture Programme, and the Presidential Cotton and Sesame Programme.
Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka made the presentation where it was resolved to fully implement announced strategies to increase production and ensure food security and exports.
Said Minister Mutsvangwa: “In fulfilment of these objectives, Cabinet noted that the distribution of inputs will be expedited for crops as well as for livestock production, while Agritex will be capacitated to achieve greater mobility following the procurement of motor bikes that will soon be distributed to the provinces.
“The Agritex officers are already assisting farmers countrywide with soil sampling and analysis in order to ensure appropriate agronomic practices.”