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We have discussed it, whined and complained about it, but is it getting better? I mean the housing issue in Addis Ababa.
Addis Ababa, like many cities in developing countries, is growing at an extraordinary rate. To cope with such growth, public authorities have devised a wide range of policy instruments to increase the rate and influence the character of city expansion, to meet the needs of its citizens.
The Ethiopian government of course has been doing quite a lot regarding housing problems in the city, building us all those lovely condominiums, but still, a substantial imbalance between the demand for and supply of housing units in Addis Ababa persists.
The problem is simply the inequity of rising demand for residential housing on the one hand, and the low supply of residential land on the other, resulting in the continual increase in the cost of housing beyond the citizens capacities.
Shelter is one of the basic necessities of human life. Housing, i.e. shelter, has to be decent enough to preserve human dignity and has to be at a level affordable and fairly proportional to the income of the great majority of families, which presently can barely make ends meet.
Take the condominiums for instance: weren’t they meant for people in the lower income bracket? Those who are not able to own a house are forced to rent an apartment and the rent for these condos keep getting even more expensive every year. At this rate, I am afraid I will never leave my parents’ house and be able to lead a life of my own.
A large proportion of the urban population in developing countries lives in informal settlements because of rapid population growth and widespread poverty. Traditional regulatory measures, such as price control, eradication of squatter settlements, and urban growth control have failed to improve housing conditions among the poor in most countries.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) estimated that Africa’s urban population would more than double, from 294 million persons in 2000 to nearly 750 million by 2030. It also projected that a dozen African cities would be among the World’s largest by 2025.
The housing project the Government is working on in this country is supposed to enable low-income urban dwellers acquire dwellings of their own and empower them through the ownership of their homes and tenure security. In the beginning, it was expected that the project would change the image and developmental direction of the city, decrease the price of housing, facilitate its accessibility and contribute directly to poverty reduction.
Having a stable and permanent place to live in provides a great sense of relief and security, but the rapid urbanization, the ever rising cost of urban land and housing as well as the continuous decline in the purchasing power of the population that contributes to the alarming housing shortage is not bestowing confidence and security in people.
Taking into account the inflation and price increment on almost everything except the air we breathe (which fortunately is still free), having your own house or even renting one seems to be something you just day dream about nowadays. I, for example, am lucky that my parents have their own house in which I currently live. I always thought of leaving my parents’ house and getting my own a few years after I started working.
Now, with the way things are going, I certainly wouldn’t prefer living on my own (couldn’t actually) as I have the option of staying at my parents’. It saves me money; money I will use for other necessities in life.
What about those who don’t have the same option as I? Or the illegal squatters that live all over the city? What options will they have if tomorrow they are forced to leave? Many people have started to live in the streets because they simply cannot afford to rent a tiny one room home.
I don’t know if the wave of building condominiums in Addis Ababa will be able to tackle this huge problem, but I certainly believe it is a good start. It would be a great relief for many if there was some sort of control on ever increasing rent prices that will be actually implemented to help out those in need of affordable housing which, let’s face it, literally almost everyone is.
The unavailability of affordable housing is really a violation of human rights.