Any mention of the name Caledonia and you are most likely not to get anything good as a response from whoever hearkens your voice.
Caledonia and what it conjures in the mind is something like a district of hell, right between Hades province, and Purgatory constituency. A dismal thought indeed.
Yet because of the need for housing and the serious deficit of houses in a city and country in general which has a shortage of housing, many have formed informal settlements in the area, many of which are barely habitable for wild animals let alone humans.
The wetlands have been known to harbour disease and infestations with a high threat of outbreaks of amongst other plagues cholera and typhoid amongst the residents of this community. The media has been awash with sad tales coming out of this human settlement horror story.
Yet in the same area lies a pristine new housing development being spearheaded by Adam Molai and the Housing Corporation Zimbabwe in conjunction with NSSA (National Social Security Authority) which is bound to change perceptions with regards housing options that are within reach of people’s pockets yet speak the language of beauty, dignity, style, comfort and all the perks that go with the typical white picket fence gated communities that locals can only dream of.
Facing rolling hills and lush green meadow, anyone who occupies the houses can boast of being something of a monarch of the glen, as there is a genuine glen in the area that speaks the beauty of location, location, location as well as a serene dream setting.
With a choice of three housing models which all however have a similar floor plan, the Caledonia project has dream housing that may well see not only the realisation of housing for all through NSSA and HCZ but also beautiful housing at that; all built by predominantly local hands.
“95 percent of the people working on this establishment and building these houses are people employed from the local community,” says Housing Corporation Zimbabwe CEO, Stephen Duggan, as he conducts a tour.
“We bring them in and we train them (to build) and within a short space of time they are able to build high quality houses. We went with three different house styles because we want to give people choice,” he says.
With over two decades of experience as a housing development guru, Stephen knows what the people want and what they deserve. And according to him, all they deserve is “the best and nothing less.”
A dream realised after NSSA, in their wisdom, decided to help answer the dire need for housing in the land, their choice of partnering with HCZ could not have been better planned. The stringent quality control measures ensure that potential residents get the best in both aesthetic and quality, with hauntingly beautiful houses on offer.
“Adam always says don’t enter into a venture or do anything unless you want to disrupt it. And that is why fresh innovation and thinking outside of the box is the hallmark of this establishment,” says Duggan.
Community is also at the heart of the structures, which encourage human interaction by their models and infrastructure development as opposed to the solid, boxed boring and mind-numbing creations that have characterised housing development in the nation particularly with regards to affordable housing.
But do not let Adam or Stephen catch you dead calling it “affordable housing”. It has a tag of being respectful to all who occupy it without the generic terms that associate class struggle and quality with the type of establishments created for people.
Which is why a walk into the show houses swallows one up and the open plan makes one think they could be in a housing development anywhere from Miami, Borrowdale, Randburg or even a country house in the everglades of the English countryside.
Built with expert speed, with up to three houses being built in 14 days, quality is however, not compromised as the average strength of a brick unit equivalent is almost four times stronger than the average brick used in housing construction in Zimbabwe.
The home is in effect a true fortress and the occupier’s palace and symbol of strength in many more ways than one.
“We have the capacity to deliver 120 units a month that we want to scale up to 250 per month. Our building type is from the US and is based on a metal mould. Essentially we use the same materials that go into brick but we form the bricks in the mould. Instead of doing them individually we do them in one pour. The bricks are 25 MP. Typical brick is less than 7mp. The houses are unbelievably durable,” he assures.
The plant which is the nerve centre of the construction magic that is the housing development was built at a cost of over $2 million and the staff contingent of 650 people drawn from Caledonia ensures jobs for the community.
Save for less than 5 percent of the staff, the majority are Zimbabweans with some being Zimbabweans who have been recalled to the nation to serve their country after having been haemorrhaged from the nation through the skills poaching that has resulted in brain drain.
“We are proud that we have attracted Zimbabweans back home to work on the project and bring their skills back homes,” says Stephen.
It has become something of a pot ‘o gold at the end of a grey rainbow that is Caledonia. Interestingly, Stephen Duggan himself is of Irish origin, and has brought the pot ‘o gold in Irish tradition to Caledonia.
Something to smile about indeed. And those who shall occupy the houses may well have stumbled upon a four leaf clover!
With the settlement taking shape and looking remarkably pretty in what people would think is an outpost of poverty and dismay, Caledonia finally has a pretty face. One that has been like cosmetic surgery to it up until now horrendous face.
Caledonia has become a pretty place in hell.