The National Housing Corporation yesterday signed important agreements with seven commercial banks and financial institutions in the country.
The move set up the financing base for housing development in the country, as the banks and financial institutions in question put up an initial fund of 165bn/- that will be available to people seeking loans with which to buy houses.
It completes a crucial business and development circle in availing loans to home buyers but also ensuring that NHC is liquid enough to build more houses, thus generally improving shelter in the country.
According to Lands, Housing and Human Settlements minister Prof Tibaijuka, the corporation plans to build 15,000 houses by 2015. That comes to an average of 3,000 houses per year, a mission requiring a lot of money to accomplish.
There is nevertheless no doubt that NHC knows what it is doing, given its relatively long history. It was formed in the early days of the country’s independence to cater for the crucial basic need of ensuring people, especially the low income earners, afford shelter.
And it did put up a good effort then, going by the houses built under the hire purchase scheme, where the low income earners were provided with shelter. Additionally, they knew they could look forward to becoming landlords in good time – when they paid off the NHC and took ownership of the houses, most of them six-room ones.
We are told that the pacts signed yesterday focus on the ordinary citizen, whose annual income after taking care of basic needs such as food, clothing, school fees, rent, electricity and water, can hardly cover the costs of building a house.
Yet most have been struggling under the most difficult of conditions, including borrowing at exorbitant costs, to have shelter they can call their own and feel secure with their families.
The many unfinished housing structures we see in residential neighbourhoods have a story to tell about how tough it is to undertake this major project single-handed, unless one has a really good income.
But now, with the stroke of a pen, one will get to own a house of one’s choice. One then pays for that house in instalments, making monthly payments to the lending bank, which will co-own the house until the final instalment in paid.
During all that time, the prospective owner gets to enjoy the full use of the house and can carry out any further improvements.
As former Executive Director of Habitat, Prof Tibaijuka must have witnessed first hand the serious housing crisis low income earners face in many African countries.
Hence her declaration that the government is all out ensure that all Tanzanians live in decent houses, which she said is possible through cooperation with banks.
It is our expectation that the government will build on this positive initiative by NHC and ensure that the opportunities now open mainly to urban workers or those engaged in businesses with steady income will be replicated and modified to help the low income groups across the country also to acquire decent shelter.
Indeed, we cannot speak of a major success in this sector, unless the needs of the poor majority are adequately addressed.