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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

We must take measures to address plight of tenants

6th January 2012
Editorial Cartoon

It`s the duty of the government to ensure social justice and protection of people’s welfare. This obligation is enshrined in Article 8 of the country’s Constitution and in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to the statutes, everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the wellbeing of himself and his family including housing.

Ironically, most residents of big cities have little or no access to standard housing.

There is a shortage of some 3 million housing units in Tanzania, the situation aggravated by an annual increase in demand of an estimated 200,000 units. As a result, many residents live in unplanned settlements – mostly in poorly serviced substandard rooms.

The Rent Restriction Act was enacted in 1950s to safeguard the welfare of tenants. Among other things, the law barred landlords from demanding advance rent payments. However, in 2005 this law was repealed for reasons best known to those who engineered its deletion.

One detrimental effect this decision caused, which we are sure about, is that it condemned millions of tenants to the uncertain life they continue to endure until today, as landlords are free to hike the rents with impunity!

We appreciate the latest move by the National Housing Corporation and a consortium of commercial banks pioneering mortgage financing in the country.

However, it is extremely difficult to bring home the idea that the initiative is meant for the poor, considering the scale of the problem and the fact that the poor majority just can’t afford buying themselves homes.

One may ask: Are these mortgages really meant for the poor majority – the monthly salaried workers we know who are earning around 80,000/- a month? Who amongst them can afford to service an 80m/- mortgage to buy a home? Practically, this is next to impossible.

They normally give a simple answer to this question: If one can’t afford to buy a home, one should rent, that’s why we have landlords and tenants, after all! However, this is absurd because nobody seems to care about the chaotic housing business through which the economically inferior who cannot build themselves houses are forced by landlords to pay unrealistic and unjustifiable rents for between six and 48 months in advance!

The confusion surrounding over 90 per cent of the victims of the recent floods in Dar es Salaam, most of them tenants of houses which were swept away by floodwaters, provides some hints on the seriousness of the issue. Most of these tenants, if not all, had paid their landlords in advance.

Now that the houses have been swept away by floods and the authorities insist that only landlords will be compensated, the poor tenants are back to square one. This is outright unjust and the government should not allow it to happen.

The government’s primary objective is the welfare of its people, and we sincerely believe the Jakaya Kikwete government will ensure that this remains the case.

It’s our hope that it will take appropriate measures to help these poor and helpless Tanzanians resume normal life as soon as practicable.

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