8 639 houses built in five years

…Shacks multiply during same period

The government has built 8 639 houses in the last five years, while close to one million Namibians have been living in shacks since 2008.

On average 1 727 houses have been built per year, with a backlog of 300 000.

Since 1990, the government has built 81 291 houses through programmes like the Build Together Programme (BTP), Informal Settlement Upgrading and the National Housing Enterprise (NHE), among others.

The latest housing figures were revealed by the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development last week.

In stark contrast to the late president Hage Geingob’s dream to eradicate shacks in Namibia in five years and despite declaring the housing situation a national humanitarian crisis in 2019, 67% of the urban population still live in informal settlements, representing approximately 979 762 Namibians living in shacks across the country.

This represents 231 831 households living in shacks countrywide in 299 informal settlements.

The newly approved National Housing Policy notes that informal settlements lack basic services, resulting in frequent and often fatal fires due to the prevalence of open fires, candles and makeshift electricity connections.

In an effort to measure its output annually, the state set a target to construct 5 000 houses and service 6 500 plots last year.

However, the government again failed to meet its housing target and barely managed to build half the set target.
Last year, the government built 2 459 houses and serviced 1 170.

The ministry has now revised targets for servicing plots from 6 500 to 2 846.


The government’s most successful and the oldest scheme is the Build Together Programme, which has produced 41 990 houses since its implementation in 1992.

The NHE’s housing delivery does not meet half BTP’s results.

Since 1993, the NHE has so far constructed 18 304 houses.

Ten years later, former president Hifikepunye Pohamba introduced his N$2,9 billion dream named the Mass Housing Development, which delivered 4 380 houses in 10 years.

The programme was supposed to make 10 000 houses available by 2016 and 180 000 by 2030.

Meanwhile, the government partnered with housing projects and companies to address the country’s backlog, such as the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), a community-based network of housing saving schemes.

Started in 1987, the SDFN has produced 7 757 houses.

In 2007, the SDFN partnered with the government to launch the Community Land Information Clip Programme.

Between 1 April 2019 and 31 December 2023, SDFN built 2 557 houses, the highest number of houses built during that period.

Another programme meant to address the mushrooming of shacks countrywide is the Informal Settlement Upgrading Affordable Housing Pilot Project, initiated in 2019 by the government, NHE, Khomas Regional Council and the Windhoek municipality, which has seen 314 houses built.

Former associate dean at the Namibia University of Science and Technology’s School of the Built Environment Phillip Lühl commended the SDFN and other community groups, but said there were challenges with land surveying and the subdivision of blocks/erven.

“And in relation to the payment of rates, taxes, services by individuals to regional councils and local authorities, the act made provision for individual accounts,” Lühl said during a stakeholders consultative workshop on the revision of the National Housing Policy in 2022.

Lühl was instrumental in the development of the revised National Housing Policy.

He believes NHE houses should be reviewed.

“Their houses are not affordable. Local authorities were requested to allocate land to NHE for development of low-cost housing to avoid the NHE competing for land with the private sector. An amendment of the Local Authorities Act to make provision for allocating land to NHE may be required,” he said.


Finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi announced last Wednesday during his budget statement that N$700 million would be allocated to informal settlements upgrades, land servicing and other programmes.

“We hope this allocation will fast-track the provision of bulk infrastructure in various local authorities to improve access to services, especially in the informal settlements. Accordingly, additional implementation capacity will be required, including closer collaboration with the private sector,” Shiimi said

This did not go down well with the leader of the official opposition McHenry Venaani, who said merely allocating money for housing would not solve the country’s housing shortage.

“There’s no clear planning on how we want to achieve housing. We have a backlog of close to 700 000 houses. You are not giving subsidisation to municipalities. Giving money to a problem does not answer the problem.”

Venaani said the government must take a more strategic approach.

“I would have given money away right now to plots so the people can access servicing… Servicing more plots for more people to have access to plots. If you give more plots to the people, people can be able to build homes.”

In the 2020/2021 financial year, the government serviced 2 846 plots and 1 751 during the following period. The number continues on a downward trend, with 1 720 plots serviced in the 2022/2023 financial year.

“The metric of housing will not be addressed by building more houses. Deliver flats, deliver homes, deliver social housing, deliver erven. Subsidise municipalities so that more people can have homes,” Venaani said.


Urban and rural development executive director Nghidinua Daniel told The Namibian two weeks ago a lack of funds remains the biggest stumbling block.

“[There are] Insufficient public funding and subsidies to address infrastructure in the informal settlement and occupied formal areas with informal structures,” he said.

He said other challenges include the high cost of inputs and consequent prices of houses and limited government funding due to slow economic recovery and growth.

On the state’s failed targets, Daniel said the national targets are not only expected to be delivered by the lead ministry or the government.

“This means such a target is to be achieved through the combined efforts of the government through its various agencies, ministries and councils at regional and local authority levels and agencies, as well as other stakeholders and role players in the country, with each party contributing in various forms, financially, technical support, as direct executing or implementing agents, etc.”

Daniel said the reality of low economic growth and subsequent reduced revenue to the state and budgetary allocations are known factors.

“Under-reporting and data challenges are another factor. Limited housing financing facilities, especially for low- to middle-income groups, remain a challenge,” he said.

Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –
Subscribe Now!

Latest News