Housing in Zambia is too expensive

By Meluse Kapatamoyo



A new report by the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), a catholic think-tank, has raised alarm over the high cost of housing in medium density areas across Zambia, especially in the capital city, Lusaka.


This situation is making decent housing unaffordable to the majority of Zambians, forcing the poor to reside in poorly constructed houses with inadequate space to decently accommodate all family members.


The JCTR through its Satellite Homes Research, a qualitative survey of living conditions in high density areas of Lusaka, has over time revealed that this right is ignored.


“While it is irrefutable that housing is a basic need, the adequacy of it is perceived to be a luxury and often ignored,” said Miniva Chibuye, coordinator of the JCTR Social Conditions programme.


The right to adequate housing has specifically been enunciated under article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and codified in other major international agreements. The Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides, in part, that “Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.”


It is for this reason that the JCTR’s Basic Needs Basket (BNB) (which measures the cost of living for a family of six in urban areas) reflects the cost of a three-bedroom house in a medium density area such as Chelston and Kabwata.


“A three-bedroom house is considered to be culturally decent and adequate for an average family of six. It is also the appropriate size to promote a decent standard of living for the girl-children, one for the boy-children and one for the parents,” said Chibuye.


The UN Global Shelter Strategy, to which Zambia is a signatory, states: “Adequate housing encompasses adequate security, adequate privacy, adequate space, adequate lighting and adequate location with regards to work and basic facilities.


According to JCTR, over half of Lusaka’s population live in unplanned high density areas with little or no maintenance of existing infrastructure.


The cost of housing over the past year in the medium density areas has however increased. For example, a three-bedroom house now costs on average K1, 500, 000 in comparison to K1, 100, 000 in 2009.

Additionally, the January BNB for Lusaka revealed that the nominal prices of food had increased by K20, 300 from a total of K822, 100 at the end of December to K842, 400 at the end of January. Increases were recorded in mealie meal and protein rich foods such as beans, meat and eggs.


Adding the cost of housing and other essential basic needs as energy, water and sanitation, the cost of living as at end of January 2010 amounted to K2,696, 030 up from K2, 276, 730 in December 2009.



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