Housing policies in Zimbabwe: An exposé of the journey In independent Zimbabwe, freedom entailed the conferment of rights to blacks. First Street, in Harare was a restricted zone before independence, but now everyone is free to walk on the street

Pardon Gotora Urban Scape
Part 3 — 1980 to 2000

In the last two editions of the housing policies journey, I strolled on the period leading to independence. I touched on how the colonial government attempted to address housing issues in Rhodesia, and how black Africans were sidelined from homeownership and access to housing finance from building societies.

In this latest episode I will dwell on post-independence Zimbabwe from 1980 through to 2000 looking at the housing policies and programmes implemented.

The first post-independence policy initiatives to be enacted were to do with repeal of all the segregatory laws such as the Land Tenure Act of 1969 and the Native Pass Act (1937) among others.

In an independent Zimbabwe, freedom entailed conferment of, hitherto deprived, rights to the black Africans. First Street, in Harare, was a restricted zone before independence, but now everyone was free to walk on the street.

One cannot imagine the euphoria associated with the inaugural walk in First Street, with all those high-end shops and the scenery, just for domestic tourism, let alone shopping.

There was freedom of movement and the right to the city philosophy saw the light of day. However, it had its own challenges as well and I doubt if government anticipated that. Urbanisation took its toll, particularly fuelled by massive rural to urban migration.

Another housing policy centrepiece, in my view second to law repeals, was the adoption of the homeownership policy. I mentioned in the previous edition that African Townships/locations’ houses were all for rental. There was a policy shift at independence, drifting away from predominantly rental housing to homeownership.

This policy entailed the conversion of 90 percent of all council rental housing to homeownership.

Only 10 percent was retained as rental stock. The houses were offered to sitting tenants on a 25- year repayment period, after which they would be issued with title deeds which guaranteed property rights and security of tenure.

Black Africans were issued with Leases with Option to Purchase (LOP) and the rent contained on the council bills was going towards offsetting the property value.

With title deeds, one could then access mortgage financing from building societies to extend the house because most of them were two bedroomed, notwithstanding the family size and gender.

Councils also introduced housing waiting lists as a policy measure to ascertain demand and also to allocate housing in a chronological manner.

At the same time, the Housing Standards Control Act was reviewed, where government introduced minimum building standards to ensure the provision of decent and durable housing. The previous ones were deemed too elitist and side-lined the ordinary citizen from dreaming of building own house. This is the same period which witnessed the expanded involvement of the private sector in low cost housing. Before that, it was mainly government and the local authorities delivering housing.

In 1982, the Housing and Buildings Act was revised, which led to the establishment of a number of funds that acted as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for development. These funds were;

  1. a) The National Housing Fund (NHF)

The National Housing Fund extended soft loans and grants to local authorities for housing infrastructure development and housing construction. These were financed directly by government, meaning there was a specific vote from Treasury allocated to the NHF. The Fund also provided loans for rural housing between in 1982 and 1995.

  1. b) The Housing and Guarantee Fund (HGF)

Housing and Guarantee Fund enabled prospective homeowners to borrow from building societies by providing a government guarantee. The civil servants received a 100 percent guarantee while non-civil servants received 90 percent guarantee.

This means when a non-civil servant wanted to borrow a mortgage, he/she was expected to raise at least 10 pecrent of the property value, and borrow the outstanding 90 percent with government playing the guarantor. In the event of defaults in payment, the building society would recoup the money from the HGF.

  1. c) The Central Rates Funds (CRF)

The Central Rates Fund was used to develop small settlements in rural areas, such as growth points and district service centres.

  1. d) The General Development Loan Fund (GDLF)

The General Development Loan Fund provided loans and grants to Rural District Councils for development purposes.

Apart from the funds created, the Act also provided for the enactment of the Rent Control Regulations which led to the the formation of the Rent Board. The Rent Board is a tribunal which arbitrates over disputes between the lessor and the lessee. I have discussed about the Rent Board on two different occasions in the past.

From 1986 to around about 2000, government introduced a programme that facilitated major infrastructure upgrading in most of the urban local authorities.

The programme was co-financed by the Government of Zimbabwe, the World Bank and USAID. The first phase of the programme was code named the Urban 1 Programme, implemented between 1986 and 1988.

It focused on capacitation of local authorities through acquisition of plant and equipment to provide bulk infrastructure. It also focused on manpower training and staff retention schemes, especially those with technical expertise like Engineers.

Most of the local authorities benefitted through augmentation of sewer treatment works, plant and equipment and motor vehicles.

The Urban 2 Programme was the successor to Urban 1 and was implemented between 1988 and 1997. This phase was meant to buttress capacity building of local authorities begun under Urban 1, to advanced loans to local authorities to provide bulk infrastructure, to maximise on the participation of the private sector in urban housing and also to assist with the development of regional programmes focused on smaller towns and growth centres.

During this period, site and service schemes dominated the housing landscape, with government taking the lead role while the private sector was beginning to be visible, not only as contractors but also providers of housing.

Employer assisted housing schemes were also undertaken during this period.

The next edition, which will be the last of this journey, will look at the period from 2000 to 2015.



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