By Magreth Nunuhe
Windhoek – Namibia could see a relief in the unprecedented housing shortage in the country with the opening this week of a German production facility near the capital, Windhoek, that is to build low-cost houses at a mind-blowing minimal cost using Polycare concrete technology, where a start-up price for a standard two-bedroomed house could cost between R250,000 and R300,000.
Polycare’s CEO, Dr Gerald Dust, and his Namibian partners will start production in Namibia seeking to address the housing shortage here using Polycare technology, which uses building material consisting of dry, mineral raw materials bound together with a mixture of reactive resins and hardeners instead of the usual cement and water in traditional concrete.
The modular assembly system was developed as a concept for simple housing solutions and is considered low-cost, strong, durable and environmentally friendly with reusable concrete blocks mainly consisting of sand.
Unlike the traditional way of building a house with specialised civil engineering applications, such as abrasion resistant pipes, Polycare uses inexpensive polyester resin, requiring less resin than conventional polymer concrete.
The opening of the Polycare facility this week in Brakwater, some 5 kilometres from Windhoek, could not have come at a better time when just last week the Namibian President Hage Geingob reiterated his call for local authorities to get rid of informal settlements by implementing the resolutions passed at Namibia’s Second National Land Conference held in October 2018.
The President said the situation in informal settlements constituted a national humanitarian crisis, which resulted in government declaring it as a human disaster for human settlement.
“We should address to get rid of informal settlements. We have a crisis where human beings are in conditions that are unbearable,” said Geingob. Namibia’s Second National Land Conference made resolutions to include the right to housing as a human right in the Constitution, increase government expenditure on housing from the current 0.1% to at least 10% of the gross domestic product, that government subsidise residents with ultra-low income through local authority and that government acquire farms adjacent to urban areas to resettle people from those towns.
The conference further resolved that 300,000 housing units be built over the next seven years, municipalities build social housing units for the rental market and allow the sale of partially serviced land (sewerage and water).
Namibia struggles with the supply of housing with a backlog of 300,000 housing units, according to the most recent official estimate from the National Development Plan 4 (NDP4) review.
Namibia is rated among countries with the highest house price increase in the world with an inefficient land delivery system, limited availability of serviced land and mismatch between supply and demand. A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published in February 2018 titled ‘Housing in Namibia: Rights, Challenges and Opportunities’, made recommendations to the government to allocate more funding to the housing sector and urban land development, review the allocations for housing initiatives with a view to prioritising the servicing of land rather than the construction of houses.
“In turn, housing initiatives should focus on low-income groups. National budgets for housing need to be administered in a more transparent manner, especially at regional and local levels, to improve accountability,” read the report.
The Namibia Inter-censal Demographic Survey (NIDS) indicates that 26.6% of households in Namibia reside in shacks since 2016 due to rapid urbanisation and unprecedented population growth.
The value of a small low-cost house that is around 35 square metres was estimated at around R280,000 to R300,000, according to the IPPR study.
With the German building technology, Namibia could get rid of the sprouting shantytowns and provide decent housing to the citizens.
In an interview during the Invest in Namibia Conference in November 2016, where the company built a two-bedroomed model house 45 square metres big for display, Dust said President Geingob and other stakeholders wanted them to bring the technology to Namibia as soon as possible.
Dust said before he started the low-cost housing initiative, he visited Haiti during the devastating earthquake of 2010 and that is how he found a way to help people in devastating natural disasters, which sparked the idea of building houses for the homeless.
He added that their vision was to empower people and the Polycare technology can bring relief to people and the way governments tackle housing shortage in their own countries.
The construction work is started by preparing a sand bed, setting the base plates and then connecting the base plates with steel straps.
Then the base straps are laid with the sand bed and the process is repeated until a complete house stands on its own.
Polycare houses are designed with future expansion in mind and can be moved to another place or be extended
According to Dust, the Polycare’s polymer concrete is significantly more expensive to produce than the cost of producing a tonne of cement concrete, but the final building is still cheaper.
The Minister of Economy, Science and Digital Society of the German Free State of Thuringia, Wolfgang Tiefensee, visited the plant this week, accompanied by a delegation from Thuringian companies and academic institutions, where he also praised the efforts of the partnership between the two countries.
Tiefensee held talks with Namibian Minister for Urban and Rural Development, Peya Mushelenga and the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Dr Itah Kandji-Murangi, among others, where he presented opportunities for joint business and training projects and co-operation between Thuringia and Namibia.