Ending urban poor housing, a dream that can become reality

[By Chanda Katongo]

ZAMBIA has one of the highest urbanisation rates in sub-Saharan Africa with an annual growth of 4.35 per cent – higher than the country’s population growth rate standing at 2.9 per cent – according to the World Factbook.

This rapid urbanisation has placed a significant strain on the local housing stock as the country struggles to provide decent housing for everyone.

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Development places the national housing deficit at over 1.5 million units, and projected it to hit three million units by 2030 – all things being equal.

Faced with such alarming figures, it is gratifying to note that government has made reducing the housing deficit one of the major focus areas in the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP).

This also aligns with the 11th United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, which seeks to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. It strives to ensure that vulnerable and underprivileged members of society are given an equal opportunity to have access to decent housing to attain holistic human development and poverty alleviation.

To effectively combat Zambia’s housing deficit and realise the goals outlined in the 7NDP and SDG 11, the Ministry of Housing estimates that an average of 193,000 houses must be built annually.

The challenge at hand is undoubtedly enormous and requires full participation from all stakeholders to come to fruition.

Taking advantage of the existing political will to increase access to decent housing for the vulnerable in society, Stanbic Bank Zambia last year launched the Stanbic Buy-A-Brick campaign to help spearhead the country’s fight against the growing housing deficit.

The project seeks to construct 1,000 houses for the urban poor.

Buy-A-Brick – whose patron is Republican President Edgar Chagwa Lungu – builds upon the success of the ‘Stanbic Build’ initiative where the bank committed to construct low-cost houses for vulnerable families in Zambia’s urban areas.

Addressing Zambia’s current housing deficit has the potential to boost economic growth because when people are provided with accommodation, they get empowered in more ways than mere protection from the elements.

By investing in decent housing, the urban poor accumulate equity that can then be used as collateral, making them more credit-worthy for accessing finance through formal channels, and generate an income – thus contributing more effectively to national development.

When more people have access to decent housing, society’s standing is uplifted, which plays a role in attaining sustainable economic growth for the country.

As a leading financial institution, Stanbic Bank has a responsibility of ensuring we meaningfully facilitate capital redistribution in the economy.

This resonates with our purpose as Stanbic Bank to always make a positive difference in people’s lives.

And we are confident that if we as the largest bank in Zambia – and our customers – believe we can help vulnerable families find shelter; if we believe in their dream; then it can be reality.

Foundation built in the community

At grassroots level, Buy-A-Brick is anchored by People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia, Slum Dwellers International, and the Zambia Homeless and Poor Peoples Federation in collaboration with the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Development.

The immediate target is to erect 200 houses under the project with the eventual total of 1,000 houses to be completed in the coming years.

Staff from various departments within Stanbic Bank support the project by acquiring building materials using their own resources, which the bank proceeds to double.

They also participate in the actual construction of the houses under close supervision from the project constructors.

Further, any citizen or organisation can participate by donating building materials or depositing any amount in the Buy-a-Brick bank account, and help combat poverty housing among low-income households.

The goal is to use Stanbic’s extensive sustainability investment policy to consolidate stakeholder power to help the less fortunate and compliment government efforts in the fight against inequality and poor housing.

The campaign also seeks to develop alternative building methods to lower the cost of housing and accelerate the country’s progress toward eliminating the housing deficit.

At the core, Buy-A-Brick aims to ensure equitable distribution of wealth and help build a society whose members have property rights, access to affordable housing, safe and clean water and proper sanitation.

While the 1,000 houses targeted by the project may not seem like a lot in the context of the country’s shortage, they would go a long way in eliminating the deficit if more institutions and other stakeholders joined the campaign or started similar initiatives of their own.

Stanbic Bank Zambia has dedicated a third of its total sustainability funding of 1 percent of its annual profit towards social investments like Buy-A-Brick.

We have transformed Stanbic Bank from a mere financial service provider to an institution that helps individuals and families, especially from low-income households, overcome barriers to wealth attainment and growth – because Zambia is our home, we drive her growth.

Chanda Katongo is Stanbic Bank Zambia head public relations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *