Nothing is more essential to people's welfare in the world than decent and affordable housing. In Tanzania, for example, an estimated 14 million people are denied the right to affordable housing because of the existing restrictive laws.
Different people, including members of Parliament in Dar es Salaam, have come up proposals to ensure that tenants get affordable housing as their basic necessity for life.
Kinondoni Member of Parliament (MP) Idd Azzan says for quite long landlords have been exploiting tenants, forcing them to pay a six-month or annual rent in advance.
“It’s not fair for the landlords to treat tenants by forcing them to pay a six-month or annual rent taking into account that some tenants earn meagre incomes,” he says.
“It’s my belief that the government will enact a new Rent Restriction Legislation to protect tenants against exploitative and greedy landlords,” he adds.
Deputy Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development Goodluck Ole-Medeye agrees that there is a rising demand for houses and that the government has constructed more than 20 housing units at Kibada area in Kigamboni, Temeke District for low income earners.
“The houses built at Kibada are sold cheaply between 25m/- to 27m/- to provide many Tanzanians decent and affordable housing,” the minister says.
Special Seats Member Parliament for Dar es Salaam Sarah Msafiri says the government should build more low-cost houses to accommodating the city’s increasing population.
“If the government will build many affordable houses, landlords will have no chance to exploit their tenants,” she says.
Ukonga Member of Parliament Eugen Mwaiposa says house rents in urban areas such Dar es Salam are quite high to low income earners.
“The majority of urban dwellers earn low incomes and forcing them to pay annual rents in huge burden to them,” she says.
“Even rent for government houses is also very higher for the majority of the city residents, who are self-employed,” she explains.
The MP urges the government to cut down the prices of building materials to enable the majority town dwellers have low-cost houses.
Secretary of the Dar es Salaam Merchants Chamber (DMC) Shaukat Jaffer says “it’s very sad that housing rents have been left open for exploitation by a tiny class of landlords.
“Nothing is more essential to the welfare of the people in the world as decent and affordable housing,” he stresses.
“If a single human being is rendered homeless and forced to live in the street in any country, it is shame to the people of that country,” he adds.
“Not every family can build a house. In fact, the majority of families in urban areas need rented housing in the face of the deepening poverty in the society. Denial of access to affordable housing as the basic necessity of life amounts to suffocating the life of the people.”
Jaffer says access to affordable housing is a human right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“As Tanzania subscribes to the principles of socialism, it will be interesting to note that Socialist International Principle 57 includes the right to decent housing,” he explains.
He says if government does not build houses for accommodating its population, then it must ensure that there are laws which provide commercial incentives for rental houses to be built so that people have access to housing.
“No tiny class of people because of its riches or wealth can be allowed by a government to exploit other people,” he stresses.
Under the Rent Restriction Act of 1984, which was repealed in 2005, the landlord was allowed a generous annual return of 14 percent in respect of residential premises recoverable in a cycle of every seven years and 18 percent for commercial premises in a cycle of every five and a half years. Such returns were slightly higher than the average returns derived from other business or commercial investments and capital rolling.
“It was an offense for a landlord to demand and accept rent in advance of more than two months. There was a provision for fine or imprisonment on conviction of the offence,” Jaffer says.
According to Jaffer, Tanzania has a housing shortage of three million units aggravated by an annual increase of 200,000 units in demand.
With an estimated population of over four million people, Dar es Salaam alone has 115 slums, otherwise known as informal urban settlements housing 500,000 families.