A special committee working on tenants’ issues has called on the government to restore the rent restriction legislation to protect them against being exploited by greedy landlords.
Members of the committee, who attended a seminar of HAKIARDHI in Dar es Salaam yesterday, said it was the government’s primary objective to ensure people’s welfare in all matters of concern.
Mohamed Khalfan was presenting a paper entitled: “The Need to have a Rent Restriction Legislation after its repeal in 2005” on behalf of Dar es Salaam Merchants Chamber (est.1942).
He said nothing was more essential to the welfare of the people in the world as decent and affordable housing.
“This is because housing is the most basic necessity of family life. Shelter gives dignity to human beings. Even animals need a den and birds a nest as shelter,” said Khalfan, adding: “Not every family can build a house. In fact, almost all families in urban areas need rented housing in the face of ever widening and deepening poverty, which sadly - is the main feature of the people in this country.”
He said the senior citizens had warned that a denial of access to affordable housing, as the most necessity of life, amounts to suffocating people.
According to him where the government doesn’t build houses for rent which are essential for the welfare of the people, then it must ensure that there are laws, which provide commercial incentives for rental houses to be built for such returns that are fairly comparable to the reasonable returns in other sectors of services.
“This is important in ensuring that people have access to affordable housing of various standards, according to their respective ranges of affordability,” he noted.
“Never has in the history of Tanzania the size of the urban population of tenants been so large as now believed to be at 14 million and the housing shortage as large as now at 3 million units aggravated by annual increase of 200,000 units in demand,” said Khalfan.
He cited Dar es Salaam alone having about 115 squatters or slum areas with 500,000 families (some 3 million persons) mostly of low income range.
“These represent 70 per cent of the city population of over 4 million,” he said.
For his part, special committee chairman Mujengi Gwao said there were several matters that had taken place in mishandling the whole issue of tenants.
“We are fighting for the people. There is no colour, tribe, religion or whatever in this matter. We are fighting for the pain of all tenants,” he said.
Gwao, who said their committee has 50 members from all three Dar es Salaam districts, said they would press the government to ensure the Act was repealed.
“We will meet the President if all of our efforts fail,” he said.
Esther Koya said: “We need to ensure that rent hikes are controlled.”
Swalehe Atiili, another committee member, advised the government to ensure it bridged the gap between the haves and the not haves when dealing with issues of landlords and tenants.
Bumbuli legislator January Makamba tabled a private motion in parliament recently to push for the enactment the Rental Housing Bill.
He said lack of a law on rental housing had given landlords a leeway to exploit their tenants.
“Landlords have been exploiting their tenants. For instance, they have been forcing them to pay a six-month or annual rent in advance. Tenants are also being evicted without prior notice. Landlords don’t even pay tax on the rent they charge their tenants,” he said.
According to the Tanzania Tenants Association, 60 per cent of urban dwellers in the country live in rented homes which take up to 40 per cent of their incomes.