In a quest for good life, people have been moving to towns and cities in search of better opportunities, a development that has pushed up the price of housing.
Coupled with the ailing economy, average Malawian families are frustrated because most of them are now priced out of homes.
One such frustrated man is Sangwani Manda, a husband and father of three who moved to Blantyre some three weeks ago after securing employment, but cannot afford to find a decent house.
He has been lodging at one of the infamous resthouses in town, hoping to find an affordable house.
Although Manda and his wife are uncomfortable to share a room with his children, he cannot trade his new found opportunity with comfortability.
“I have been unemployed for a year and half and I have been finding it hard to fend for my family. When I got news of this newly-found opportunity, I decided to take my family with me here since they are my responsibility.
“This is my third week staying at a resthouse because we are failing to find a house. All the houses we come along have either been occupied just recently or are way too expensive for us to afford,” he says.
But life at a resthouse has never been easy for Manda.
He has been paying K3 000 a room per day and the family has been relying on fast foods as they are not allowed to cook at the resthouse premises.
“Now the schools are about to open but I cannot register my children at any school because we are not sure which area we are going to find a new home,” he told Business Review.
Experts argue that with urbanisation rate at 3.8 percent against a population growth rate of 2.8 percent, Malawi’s quest for meeting demand for housing services is a farfetched dream.
Allen Justice, director of Blantyre-based Justice Properties, says because of the soaring demand, finding a decent house for rent, especially for average houses, has become a hussle.
“Nowadays demand for houses is very high. Clients are looking for a house fetching an average of K100 000 a month, but because almost all of these houses have been occupied, we are mostly left with bigger houses that an average family cannot afford. Usually, these houses cost around $1 000 [about K715 000] a month,”she said.
Justice said that as a result, some property owners are selling these big houses and are building flats which can accommodate a lot of families at once.
In an interview, Blantyre City Council Director of Town Planning and Estate Services, Costly Chanza, said that Malawi’s annual demand for housing stands at 21 000, but only between 10 000 to 15 000 houses are built each year.
“Our annual demand is 21 000, this is inclusive of those houses built by individuals and the Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC).
“However, we only manage to build between 10 000 to 15 000 houses annually. As a result, demand for houses remains an issue yet to be solved,” said Chanza, who is also immediate past president of the Institute of Physical Planners.
In an earlier interview, Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya said that in a bid to improve the provision of housing services in the country, government has given a go ahead to the MHC to source private funding from international institutions for its housing projects as it would no longer be able to lend financial support for the said projects.
Available statistics indicate that the current ratio-which measures the institutions’ [MHC] ability to meet its short-term obligations, has persistently been below desirable levels as it stood at 0.88:1 as at December 31 2015
Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Atupele Muluzi is on record having said that his ministry has set up a new department of urban development in the ministry, which is going to provide leadership in urbanisation and urban development matters.
Recently, the African Economic Outlook 2016 report which was launched on Thursday in Nigeria titled Sustainable Cities and Structural Transformation, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and OECD Development Centre of the African Development, warned that if urbanisation occurs without a corresponding increase in economic opportunities and services, the resulting cities will be characterised by concentration of relatively richer people purchasing low-level services from those migrating to cities, slums and concentration of infrastructure services catering for the higher income parts of the city.