‘There goes the neighbourhood’ Previously disadvantaged Namibians moving into City’s posh suburbs

THERE was once a time when the sight of Jeremiah Ndjoze’s dark skin and short black hair in the middle of Klein Windhoek would have been mistaken for a thief by some and a tourist attraction to others in pre-independence Namibia.

But 20 years on, the City of Windhoek’s neighbourhoods are undergoing a rapid desegregation. More so, to an extent that neighbourhoods like the formerly affluent Windhoek North is currently 95% dominated by the previously disadvantaged Namibians.

The latter was confirmed by Daniel Beukes who is the current director in the Directorate of Deeds in the Department of Land Management and Administration at the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement. “Desegregation is taking place in these neighbourhoods and we have the records to prove it.

Take a neighbourhood like Windhoek North for example. The only time one would see a black person in this area 20 years ago was when that person was attending to some domestic job in the area. But now every second house in this area is owned by either a ‘brother or a sister’ (black person),” Beukes said.

Since independence, the proportion of blacks living in the affluent suburbs in Windhoek City has more than doubled. Ockert Du Plooy, Principal Real Estate Agent at Seeff Properties confirmed the aforesaid trend. “It is my seventh year in the industry and I have experienced quite a lot of previously disadvantaged buyers looking at buying properties in uptown suburbs, there is an increase of 40 to 55%,” he said.

According Du Plooy, this sudden influx of previously disadvantaged Namibians in these suburbs can be attributed to the fact that “the banks relaxed their lending criteria for first time buyers.”

Another analyst however points to the fact that after independence, people’s incomes changed as many previously disadvantaged Namibians landed better jobs. “Around 1995 a lot of black Namibians were already in the suburbs. One can also recall that this was around the time when many of the previously marginalised Namibians were now scooping positions as directors at parastatals and in government,” Martin Mwinga an economic analyst at First Capital said.

According to Mwinga the prices of houses in suburbs like Ludgwigsdorf, Hochland Park, and Klein Windhoek are seldom less than N$1 million.

“So, for one to get a house in any of these areas, one should earn a net salary of at least N$25, 000,” thus Mwinga. This he said will enable the home owner to afford the 11% monthly repayment on home loan.

Owning a house in these areas has its perks since upon the full repayment of the home loan the home owner will have made a viable investment.

Lavish Lifestyle versus Financial Recession

In many Western countries individuals lost their homes to the global recession that swept across 2008 into 2010 due to the phenomenon of sub-prime lending.

So how did these formerly disadvantaged Namibians now living lavishly endure the just ended financial recession?

According to Mwinga, Namibia was better off during the recession since not so many job losses were recorded during this trying time. And the interest rate as far as morgage payments are concerned came down from 15% to the current 11%.

“Also a plus point to those who are staying in these areas is the fact that inflation in general came down from 14% in 2008 to the current 4% meaning that consumers could afford their basic commodities at better prices and did not feel the pinch when it comes to mortgage payment,” said Mwinga.

The above, Prime Focus can reveal, makes the urban housing question one of the highest priorities for Namibia as is correctly stipulated in the country’s National Development Plans. And the need for mass housing provision cannot be entirely separated from neighbourhood desegregation.

The scramble for urban land

Mwinga maintained that the City of Windhoek, due to its geographical location and its mountainous surroundings cannot expand Westwards, Eastwards or Southwards. The City can only expand to the north in the direction of Okahandja. And it is in part the same direction that the city’s soaring populations of the poor have erected shacks in informal settlements.

A recent report by the Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) revealed that more than 500,000 Namibians live in informal settlements. The NHAG is an organization whose main aim is to support the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia through technical support, financial assistance and capacity building. Last year, the organization carried out a profiling of informal settlements across the country as part of the Community Land Information Programme (Clip).

The study established that 541,119 Namibians live in informal settlements across the country. 118,467 of these Namibians live in Windhoek alone, spread across a calculated 32 informal settlements within the Windhoek Municipality. These Windhoek based squatters come from a total of 25,428 households, the study revealed.

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Regional Local Government Housing and Rural Development, Erastus Negonga confirmed the existence of the problem. He, reportedly, however called for a thorough paradigm shift among Namibians, urging them to refrain from migrating to the City in search of opportunities which they can sometimes create for themselves in their regions.PF