President Mugabe has challenged stakeholders in the housing sector to take the national housing backlog of 1,25 million as an investment opportunity, rather than a problem.
Officially opening the National Housing Conference at Harare International Conference Centre yesterday, President Mugabe called for the removal of all bottlenecks in housing delivery saying principles of ease-of-doing-business cut across all sectors of the economy.
He said stakeholders in the sector should not watch the backlog balloon without taking corrective action.
President Mugabe said housing projects still being developed were a clear demonstration of the demand for residential accommodation, an area he said had for a long period remained untapped by local and foreign investors.
“Housing provision is, the world over, an engine for economic growth, which serves as a barometer of any nation’s level of economic growth and development. It goes without saying that when this sector performs, all the other downstream sectors all flourish,” President Mugabe told the delegates.
“The sector creates employment for those who are into construction, in as much as it promotes small and medium enterprises, the main suppliers of building materials. I challenge and implore all of us here today to perceive the housing backlog as an opportunity rather than as a problem,” he said.
“This will expedite the planning processes, thereby cutting on the bureaucratic red-tape. My Government needs to find immediate solutions to the mushrooming of informal settlements in major urban centres across the country, with the worst scourge rearing its ugly head within Harare Metropolitan Province,” he said.
The President said Zimbabwe had in the recent past witnessed the proliferation of informal settlements, the bulk of them erected on undesignated land or land meant for other purposes.
Such settlements, President Mugabe said, lack requisite water and sanitation facilities, and are a potential health hazard, often resulting in the outbreak of diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
He urged Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere to tighten screws and put an end to the scourge, saying people who require land should follow proper procedures in acquiring housing stands from the relevant authorities.
President Mugabe commended the Local Government Ministry for mooting the idea of decongesting conventional cities and towns by creating stand-alone and self-contained new towns.
“I am reliably informed that plans are afoot to pilot the concept at Chishawasha B in Harare, Nyatsime area in Manyame Rural District Council, Knock Mallock in Norton and Umvutsha in Bulawayo. These schemes indeed require bulk off-site infrastructure which presents investment opportunities, in addition to onsite infrastructure and actual housing construction.
“Government is also making efforts to identify and acquire additional land for urban expansion. Since land is a finite resource, it is crucial for us to explore attendant ways of curbing urban sprawl, by adopting high rise buildings which accommodate greater population densities,” he said.
Minister Kasukuwere said Government would strive to provide housing as it is a basic requirement.
“We are pursuing the agenda of housing as stated in the ZimAsset. We want to make sure that the housing target is achieved. We have also been sanitizing some settlements through the Urban Development Corporation,” he said.
The conference brings together property developers, city fathers, town clerks, investors and financiers among other stakeholders. It started on Tuesday and ends tomorrow. herald