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Capital: What was the primary reason for the government’s decision to launch the housing program?
Kassahun Gofe: The government has been trying to resolve the housing problem in cities, especially since 2003. It has tried to construct as many houses as possible for the citizens in the capital and regional cities by implementing the 20/80 scheme. In Addis Ababa alone, the government built and transferred over 85,000 condominiums to citizens.
Capital: What did the government learn from the challenges and problems it experienced with its initial condominium projects?
Kassahun: One of the challenges was the inability of people to save and/or pay the money required to receive the condominiums they had registered for. After winning the draw most were unable to save and pay the 20 percent of the construction cost, which was the requirement.
The incomes of residents of Addis Ababa vary; therefore the government came up with different schemes and options in order to accommodate residents from all walks of life. The 10/90 housing scheme is meant to address the housing needs of the poor whose monthly income not more than 1,389 birr. They are expected to save 187 birr every month to cover the 10 percent required to pay and the government will cover 90 percent of the construction cost in the form of a loan to be paid in the long term. This means that people will have a condo which actually costs 80,000 birr for an initial cost of only 38,000 birr.
The second thing is, during the registration process for the condominium housing program in 2003, some things were found to be unfair. First of all, the current registration process ensures that the registration made eight years ago is correct and fair. It will also allow people who registered in 2003 to be able to now choose which scheme to register for, as their economic status may have changed over the past eight years. That is why the registration process of the 20/80 scheme is being carried out in two different ways. Firstly, those who registered in 2003 are to be registered again to activate their account and allow them to choose a new scheme; it will also allow people who were not here in Addis Ababa in 2003 and who were under age at the time to register.
Secondly, the program includes people who are registering for the first time. They are expected to save for the next seven years, while those who registered in 2003 are expected to save for the next five years. What is new in the current scheme is that we have made saving mandatory. If someone stops saving for six consecutive months, our understanding will be that they have decided not to participate in the program and will exclude them from the process.
In regards to the 40/60 condominium and housing scheme, people will receive condos or houses, primarily, in accordance to the amount of money they have saved. This means that those who fulfill the 40 percent requirement first are guaranteed to get their house earlier, even though they might have registered at a later date.
Yet another scheme is for people who have previously formed associations and had applied to receive land from the government to build homes and other people who want to follow this path. They are expected to put up 50 percent of the construction cost in a blocked account at the CBE before securing the land, and when the government grants them the land, they need to pay the rest of the construction cost. Registration under the 10/90 and 20/80 schemes has already started on June 10 and is proceeding quite well. All people who register should be over 18 years of age and can register only once. We already have a data base that will allow us to control this. Married couples are not allowed to register separately.
Capital: Where will you be constructing the new condos and houses?
Kassahun: Condos under the 10/90 scheme are currently being constructed in Bole Arabsa and Yeka Abaduka areas. Construction will be undertaken on the outskirts of the city as well as the central part. The government will be responsible for the development of infrastructure at all construction sites. Construction under the 40/60 scheme will be in the central part of the city including Legehar, Megenagna, and Saris. The 20/80 scheme might be in central parts or on the outskirts.
Capital: People had to line up in long queues twice to open bank accounts and to register at woredas. The general consensus among them is that the time frame given to do this is quite short. What is your take on that?
Kassahun: This registration is being carried out after the government undertook all the necessary preparations. The confusion among the public was that they thought they couldn’t open their bank accounts once registration at the woredas began. That was the reason for the long queues. Now that confusion has been cleared up and the registration process is going well with no discernible glitches, especially in terms of electric power failure and interruption in internet service. Opening bank accounts and registering for the first two schemes is possible until June 29. There is ample time; therefore people shouldn’t worry needlessly. Over 300,000 people have already opened accounts at the CBE in less than a week’s time. What is important is that the government is trying to make sure people who provide such services at the Bank’s branch offices are not overburdened.
Capital: According to various sources, most residents of the city don’t own houses. How many people are expected to register?
Kassahun: We anticipate about 1.3 million people will register. This is our expectation and what we have prepared for. A study or research hasn’t been conducted in this regard, but if it had been, our speculation might have been lower. But we have contingencies if the numbers go beyond what we expect now.
Capital: The number of people who registered 8 years ago was 400,000, but the government was able to provide homes for about 90,000 or one third of those. Do you think the government will be able to effectively and efficiently construct 1.3 million houses over the next seven years or so?
Kassahun: The efficiency of the government to build has developed considerably. In 2003 and 2004, construction capacity was low, with only about 10,000 houses being built. Currently, the government has the capacity to construct 100,000 houses a year. This capacity will also improve over the coming years for many reasons including the fact that we are implementing the Kaizen model, we will be using ISO standards, and so on, to achieve a construction capacity of upto 200,000 houses per year.
Capital: How much do you think the demand for housing is currently?
Kassahun: Even though we don’t have a well researched data, we estimate the demand to be around one million houses in the cities country wide. This demand increases by 100,000 annually. In this context, we believe the housing demand in Addis Ababa to be 650,000.
Capital: What is the role of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE)?
Kassahun: The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia is responsible for the registration, account opening and collecting savings from would be house owners. It will also support the housing program by providing the finances needed to build the houses to the Addis Ababa City Housing Development and Construction Bureau.
Capital: What kind of Identity Card should people use to open a bank account and register at the weredas/kebeles?
Kassahun: The most preferable one would be the kebele ID card, but government employees are allowed to use their employee IDs.
Capital: What about private company employees?
Kassahun: They will need to use their Kebele ID cards. I don’t think it is that much of an issue. People have plenty of time to get a new one or renew their old Kebele ID cards. Both take a very short time to process. Most people have been ready six months ago or so.
Capital: Many complain that they were unable to get a new one as Kebeles have stopped the service to halt fraudulent actions…
Kassahun: In such cases, people can report to a committee that is dedicated to address complaints in each woredas. The committee is there to address any issue, be it complaint, appeal or inconvenience.
Capital: When do you think all applicants will be provided with their houses?
Kassahun: The 20/80 scheme is on track and those who applied for it 8 years ago would get their houses first. Then, the government will start serving the new applicants.
Houses built under the 40/60 scheme are already under construction and will be transferred up on completion. The same goes for the 10/90 scheme.
Concerning houses to be constructed by associations and unions, construction will start as soon as people are able to save 50 percent of the construction cost. For those who are able to save a 100 percent on the three schemes and if the number of those people matches the number of houses, they will be prioritized. If the number of people exceeds the houses available, then there will be a lottery draw.
Capital: You have issued a regulation that governs the programs. What are the Do’s and Don’ts?
Kassahun: People who are and will be engaged in activities that are prohibited by the regulation will be penalized and will lose their chances of owning houses. Registration doesn’t mean a confirmation to get a house. A very serious inspection will be conducted.
The public should participate in fighting illegal activities that go against the governments effort to provide housing to the public. To encourage public participation, there is a 15 percent commission for whistleblowers against those who try to register through illegal means. This will be a great deal of help.