Zimbabwe: Building for a Better Future (1996)

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   This document has been made available in electronic format
           by the International Co-operative Alliance.
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                Building for a Better Future 
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      Article submitted by Carol Mundle,  Rooftops Canada

The members of Tashinga housing co-operative, a group of domestic
workers in Harare, Zimbabwe, save 17 per cent of their income each
month.  They've been doing that for six years, hoping to save
enough to start construction of their housing co-op.  The average
household income is only $90 Canadian a month ($542 Zimbabwe
Dollars) yet the members continue to put aside a large portion of
their money because they want to have a home of their own. 
Co-operatives are seen as a viable model for housing development in
a country where most housing is expensive and beyond the reach of
the majority. 

Zimbabwe is a country in southern Africa, with a population of 10.4
million.  There are an estimated 1.2 million people without a home
of their own, and many others live in overcrowded and substandard
conditions.  As people move to the urban areas in search of
employment, the need for housing is becoming more desperate, with
squatters camping outside the Harare railways station and many
people living in rented shacks behind houses and apartment
buildings. The newspapers regularly carry stories about fires in
these wooden structures, where families cook over open fires or on
paraffin stoves. 

In response to these problems, housing co-operatives are planning
to build safer, longer-lasting solid brick structures with running
water and electricity. There are over 50 housing co-ops in Zimbabwe
but these co-ops have lacked the necessary support to secure
financing to begin construction. Co-ops are now looking to a local
resource group, Housing People of Zimbabwe (HPZ), for assistance.
HPZ was started in 1991 with the assistance of Rooftops Canada, the
international programme of the Co-op Housing Federation of Canada,
and the Canadian Co-operative Association. 

'There are so many housing co-ops because the government recommends
people form co-ops as a means of solving their housing problems,'
says Stuart Thomas, a Rooftops consultant who has provided
technical assistance to HPZ.  'But there has been no government
housing programme.' Financial institutions have not made loans
available to low-income households, so up until now the members had
to save the entire cost of their homes before they can start
construction. As a result, very few co-ops have been built. 

Housing People in co-operation with the government of Zimbabwe and
other funding organizations, have recently developed a Co-operative
Investment and Mortgage Programme. Now, housing co-ops with
assistance from HPZ, can apply for a mortgage, and members will
only have to save a down payment before they can start building.
This year four co-ops have begun construction totalling several
hundred units and many more are in the planning stages. Long-term
sustainability is always a concern for a new organization and
Housing People is moving towards self-sufficiency through fees that
it charges co-ops for its development services. 

HPZ also provides training for co-op members and management
committees and ensures the full participation of women in the
emerging co-op movement.  Each co-op must ensure that at least one
woman member attends the annual national co-op housing seminar that
is organized by Housing People. The organization has become a
national and regional success story, hosting visitors and training
programs for other African housing groups.