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Sierra Leone News: Searching for solutions to the housing crisis

Urban migration continues on a scale not previously seen, which means housing demand significantly outstrips supply. This forces people into making desperate choices, risking their health and very often risking their lives.
In 2012 Graham Tipple and Associates, a UK-based architecture firm, did a scoping visit to Freetown. Their research found that out of an estimated population of between 900,000 and 1.5 million people in the city, about 500,000 live in slums. Most of these are located along river valleys, slopes of the mountains and on flood plains, alluvial mud flats and mangrove swamps along the coast.
Home Leone, a private estate developer, showed that in Freetown, 5,000 families are in imminent danger of death, 94% of homes have no flush toilets – 60% have a pit latrine for a toilet. Their surveys show people live in constant fear of eviction by government or natural disaster. 66.6% live in 1 or 2 rooms. 43.6% of households live with 5-7 family members. 24% of houses are zinc construction and 13% made of mud. One in five Freetown residents sleep in a room with 10 or more people.”
Home Leone concluded that Freetown needs 280,000 houses or 19,000 per year by 2028.
Yirah Conteh, Chair, Slum Dwellers Association, pointed out that the housing burden faced by most people has resulted in increase in population of people living in slums and other dangerous locations. “The goal to provide affordable and accessible housing should also address other livelihood facilities adding that most slum dwellers have refused to relocate to safer places allocated by the government because those places do not have any social livelihood facilities.”
According to UN-Habitat, around 33% of the urban population in the developing world in 2012, or about 863 million people, lived in slums. The proportion of urban population living in slums was highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (61.7%), followed by South Asia (35%), Southeast Asia (31%).
Lamenting on the limited access to infrastructure in terms of affordability and proximity, Lavern Buya-Kamara, General Manager, SALHOC revealed that SALHOC’s major challenge in delivering its mandate has been access to finance and access to State land.
“SALHOC intends to upsurge the housing sector contribution to the GDP in three years’ time. This could easily prompt growth of the economy by working with private investors.”
The current housing deficit in Sierra Leone is projected at 7000 unit and a growing rate of 200 units per annum, Sierra Leone Housing Cooperation (SALHOC) said.
SALHOC’s findings indicate that household sizes ranged between 5-7 persons per household. 75.4% of the household share premises with other occupants with an average room occupancy rate of three persons per room adding that 53.8% household live in tin shacks common referred to as “pan bodies”.
The draft national housing estimate noted that the urbanized population is at 30.5% of the total population of the country. The housing market review revealed that the housing situation is dire. According to Buya-Kamara, the housing authority wants to provide a loan scheme to encourage wider home ownership and to undertake public private partnership ventures in providing real estate as an effort to improve the living standard of Sierra Leoneans.
Cedeya, Regimanuel Grey, and the Chinese owned Gouji have invested in building gated communities or estate development type housing in Sierra Leone. But with no financing available and prices ranging between $300k-$500k the homes are well out of reach of many middle class Sierra Leoneans.
Samuel Sesay, programme coordinator, Centre of Dialogue on Human Settlement and Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA) stated that government should invest more resources and collaborate with private investors to ensure that the provision of affordable housing is addressed as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Previous approaches to meeting housing needs in Sierra Leone have failed because the homes built have not been truly affordable and because the settlements created have not been holistic, providing for the full range of needs a community has from employment and health care to recreation and worship. In short they have not been sustainable.
By Sylvia Villa
Friday January 12, 2018.

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