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Towards a Housing Policy

  • Marc Nerfin


In most African countries, the housing situation is most unsatisfactory, both in quality and quantity. The underlying factors are both demographic (population growth, rapid urbanisation) and economic (the under-development of productive resources). Although the poverty of housing is only one facet of the ‘pauperisation’ of the African masses, and although new needs arise directly from the process of development itself, yet the only possible framework for any modern housing policy is planning—economic, social, and spatial—in which the role of the public authorities is decisive both in the preparation and the implementation of the plan. Housing then becomes one element in the total modernisation of society.



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Page 544 note 1 For reasons which will appear below, this article deals mainly with the modern aspects of housing, and therefore leaves out of account the greater part of rural housing. Frequent references to modem urban housing and urbanisation are thus deliberate.

Page 544 note 2 U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, Introduction to the Problems of Urbanisation in Tropical Africa (Addis Ababa, 1962).

Page 545 note 1 In spite of their name, building societies do not build, but accumulate savings and make loans for the construction or purchase of houses. Their American name, ‘savings and loan associations’, describes their functions more accurately.

Page 548 note 1 Odinet, Bernard, Aspects de la politique du logement à Dakar (Dakar, 1962).

Page 548 note 2 Durand, J., ‘Quelques réflexions sur l'urbanisrne et l'habitat’, in Industries et travaux d'outremer (Paris), 04 1963.

Page 548 note 3 Even this level of investment amounts to one-eighth of the gross domestic (fixed) capital formation.

Page 550 note 1 Saving is also relevant to the hire-purchase system, which, in the best of cases, is more of a convenience than a means of long-term planning. Just when the economy is reaching the takeoff point, the recipients of such credits, who demand houses of a certain standing, are using an important share of the development funds available. When the housing loan has been paid off, instead of continuing to pay rents, which could be used to finance further programmes, the occupiers have become house-owners and consider they have repaid their debt to the community. Thus the initial public stimulus does not generate a series of self-financing housing programmes. The usual answer to this is to point Out that those concerned pay for part of the investment, say one-third; but because it is only one-third, the other two-thirds must come from public funds. This kind of leakage should be dealt with by reducing the period for repayment and demanding a higher rate of interest. But experience shows that this possibility is very seldom used, for political reasons.

Page 550 note 2 de Guchteneëre, A. and de Greef, G., ‘Le Rôle des capitaux internes privés et le financement du développement économique’, in La Belgique et l'aide économique aux pays sous-développés (Brussels, 1959).

Page 552 note 1 République tunisienne, Secrétariat d'Etat au plan et aux finances, Perspectives décennales de développement 1962–1971 (Tunis, 1962).

Page 552 note 2 Note that this refers to personal income, not to total product; the former total will increase by 57 per cent, while the G.D.P. will rise by 88 per cent.

Page 553 note 1 Discussion of these figures should take into account the fact that there is no simple, direct relationship between maintenance costs and construction costs; see for instance U.N. Economic Commission for Europe, Cost, Repetition, Maintenance: related aspects of building prices (Geneva, 1963).

Page 554 note 1 This can also be due to projecting into Africa dreams unrealised in Europe: the dream of the garden city, for instance.

Page 556 note 1 de Bernis, G. Destanne, ‘L'Industrialisation en Algérie’, in Problèmes de l'Algérie indépendante (Paris, 1963).

Page 556 note 2 Ibid. The E.C.A. secretariat have estimated, on the basis of African growth rates of G.D.P., of capital formation, and of elasticity of demand for construction materials, that the level of investment which would enable the continent to produce almost all the construction materials it required by 1970 would not amount to more than one-eighth of the total cost of the materials during the period 1960–70; i.e. it would be approximately the same as the outlay required for the purchase of construction materials outside Africa by 1970, assuming tha Current productive capacity remains constant.

Page 557 note 1 The estimate of needs in Zambia, for instance, shows that there is already a surplus of houses with less than three rooms, and that no more are required for the next few years. In Libya no new building is needed in some towns, and efforts should be concentrated on others. In U.A.R. such estimates can show the desirable allocation of new building as between various price levels.

Page 558 note 1 Medam, Alain, ‘Proposition de principe pour l'étude des niveaux de vie dans une économie en voie de développement’, in Tiers Monde (Paris), IV, 13–14, 1963.

Page 559 note 1 Bugnicourt, Jacques, Problématique et méthodologie de l'aménagement des campagnes, l'exemple sénégalais (Dakar, 1964), suggests that the villages centres ‘should constitute the intermediaries between the towns and the outlying villages …. On the economic level, the village centre should stimulate, popularise, and commercialise … In social and cultural affairs, the village centre is an essential tool for national unification and the advancement of the masses.’

Page 561 note 1 Benevolo, L., Le origini dell'urbanistica moderna (Bari, 1963).

Page 562 note 1 The question whether this will be interpreted in terms of state capitalism, or of noncapitalist development, is important, but will be answered in practice and not in a theoretical discussion.

Page 563 note 1 Nyerere, Julius K., ‘Ujamaa: the basis of African Socialism’, in Africa's Freedom (London, 1964), p. 72.

Page 563 note 2 But Ghana's, Seven Year Development Plan (Accra, 1964), to take one example, expressly mentions a ‘right to housing’ parallel to the right to education and employment.

* Regional adviser at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa. This is a personal contribution, not to be in any way attributed to the E.C.A.

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The Journal of Modern African Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-278X
  • EISSN: 1469-7777
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