Africa faces major housing crisis from urbanization – World Bank

Houses2A World Bank report on housing released last week, says Africa faces a major housing crisis from rapid urbanization and a growing slum population, and will host majority of the world’s slum dwellers in the future, by current trends.

The report “Stocktaking of the Housing Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa”, looks at trends across Africa, projecting that the region could have as many as 1.2 billion urban dwellers by 2050 and 4.5 million new residents in informal settlements each year, most of whom cannot afford basic formal housing or access mortgage loans.

“The recognition of informal housing as the only option available to a large majority of Africans, signals a need for new approaches to housing policy,” a statement by the World Bank said.

According to the World Bank, many governments in Africa have been directly providing housing to meet the demands of growing urban populations, but these programmes are extremely costly to government, out of reach for the urban poor, and have not significantly increased the amount of affordable housing.

“Governments will need to join hands with the private sector to facilitate investments in housing by expanding access to and improving the quality of existing stock, while at the same time making it easier for people to access land and housing finance”, Mamta Murthi, the World Bank Group’s Acting Vice President for Africa was quoted as saying.

The World Bank says while housing construction and ownership does not only benefit families, but also creates at least five jobs for masons, carpenters, electricians and other trades, investment in formal housing in Africa is still low compared to every other region, and requires a more strategic approach to encourage private investment.

The report recommends that scarce government resources should target informal housing in low-income areas and households – upgrading infrastructure, improving land administration and planning regulations, and expanding access to finance through microfinance loans, credit groups and credit cooperatives.

It also notes that slum populations in Africa is growing while those of other regions are declining, making the need for adequate, affordable housing more urgent than ever before.

By Emmanuel Odonkor

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