Ambitious housing project revamping Ethiopian cities

Since 2004, the Ethiopian government has been rolling out a national housing project to solve the country’s urban housing challenge. While the project has made some gains, there remains a housing deficit, especially in urban areas.

Ethiopia has one of the lowest proportions of citizens living in urban areas: only 16.7 percent. However, things are changing and the country is now urbanizing at an annual growth rate of 3.49 percent. The combination of high population and urban growth rates, coupled with a high prevalence of urban poverty, has placed enormous strain on Ethiopian cities, especially when it comes to affordable housing.

“Almost 50 percent of city slum dwellers live below the poverty line and their hardships are enormous,” said Mekonnen Wube, an urban planner with the Addis Ababa Housing Development Project Office.

Nationally, 80 percent of the population lives in sub-standard slum housing that needs either complete replacement or significant upgrading, according to the latest figures from the Ethiopian government. In Addis, slum dwellers live in congested houses that have no access to roads, sanitation and basic infrastructure. Though many slums areas are slowly disappearing in Addis, there are still many of them concentrated in the inner city areas.

The housing challenge remains large. The current housing deficit is between 900,000 and 1,000,000 units in urban areas, according to a UN Habitat report, and only 30 percent of the current housing stock is in fair condition, with the remaining 70 percent in need of total replacement. In Addis Ababa alone, 300,000 housing units are required to meet the deficit.

A lack of well-established urban development indicators have also been one of the major constraints in decision-making, policy formulation and planning process at all levels of the country’s metropolitan areas, said Abera Lulessa, Study, Plan and Budget Core Process Leader of the government housing project.

Affordable housing plan

Since the launch of the affordable housing project in 2004, most of the country’s urban areas have been in a state of fundamental transformation in terms of physical, socio-economic and spatial aspects and most of them now boast a housing project. The program is a large-scale approach to address the current housing deficit, the poor quality of the existing housing stock, and the future housing needs due to continued urbanization.

The government has been building condominium houses as part of its Integrated Housing Development Program. Typically, these houses are four-storey buildings with basic features inside. They are built both in the center of cities or in peripheral areas at low cost. The houses, not fancy structures, are made of concrete and steel and have common laundry and slaughter areas.

2,948 condominium houses are being built at five sites in the current fiscal year in the Sengatera, Crown, Ehil Nigid, Asko and Tourist Nigid areas and 25 contractors and consultants are working to finalize the condominium houses, said Yohannes Abayneh, communication affairs head of the City Saving Houses Development Enterprise.

In all regions, condos have been transferred to their owners by way of a computer-based lottery system. When registering for the lottery, applicants choose which condominium site, sub-city and unit type they prefer. Thirty percent of housing units are allocated to women. There are no special provisions for the elderly or disabled, although if their names are drawn in the lottery they have first choice in choosing a ground floor condominium. Presently, there is no income verification system in place but lottery entrants must be able to prove that they have lived in Addis for at least six months.

Up to January 2014, over 800 million dollars was earmarked for the housing projects in cities across Ethiopia. Some 22,000 condos were handed over to beneficiaries in 2014 alone, according to the Ethiopian Housing Development Agency. And the government expects to transfer 76,000 houses to individuals this year. The construction of 65,000 houses commenced in 2013 and construction of the same number of houses will begin this year.

Addis a priority

Addis Ababa has received priority due to the high demand for housing. Close to one million individuals that seek condos have been registered since 2012 in Addis Ababa only, according to the Ministry of Urban Works and Development. And in the last few years, the city administration has completed thousands of condos in the central part of town, although most of the big condo compounds have been built on the outskirts.

Since housing demand remains high, the city administration aims to build more homes in the capital. However, the housing shortage continues to be a major problem for city residents.

Sintayehu Bushe, a resident of the Yeka Sub-City in Addis Ababa, said he has been waiting for the government’s houses for the past six years now.

“I don’t think enough houses are being built. I know lots of other people who are waiting for close to ten years now,” he said adding that he can no longer afford to pay for the house he is renting for 1,500 birr (close to 75 USD).

The city’s current housing project has a goal of constructing 400,000 condominium units between 2010 and 2015. Although the program has not met its original targets it has built 171,000 housing units to date. This has increased the number of homeowners, who would not have owned a home in their lifetime, and benefited the housing market by increasing the supply of owner-occupied housing and rental units. This is an achievement, considering the previously limited capacity of the Ethiopian housing sector. There are, however, a number of unanticipated challenges facing the program.

“The most pressing [challenge] is the affordability of the units for low-income households, with the cost increases in the price of condominium houses deeming them no longer an option for many low- income households,” said Wube, the urban planner. “Furthermore, the inability to pay the monthly mortgage and service payments forces many households to move out of their unit and rent it.”

In addition, many condominium sites are located at the periphery of the city, sometimes up to eight kilometers from the city centre. This places further financial strain on beneficiaries in the form of daily transport costs.

The quality and design of condominium blocks and the post-occupancy management are also other critical factors, according to a review by the Integrated Housing Development Agency’s 2013 report to the House of Peoples Representatives.

Numerous housing development projects are happening across the country in parallel to the housing projects being undertaken by government. Despite this, the current need of registrants to new condos, especially in Addis Ababa, is so huge that the means and capacity of construction employed so far cannot build the desirable number of houses and satisfy the needs of residents.

Elias Meseret is a correspondent for the Associated Press, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Follow him on twitter or contact him via email: [email protected]

Image: neiljs.

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One Response to “Ambitious housing project revamping Ethiopian cities”

  1. Dagne Alemu

    To curve all land related problem and housing the national land recording ,assembling,system should be given an attention, and this is government and the society responsibility. Integrated urban development program with the help of private sectors,NGOs, community participation can bring sustainable development throughout the country.


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