Affordable housing a need in PNG

Editorial

NEW Housing and Urbanisation Minister Justin Tkatchenko has made a good start to “clean up” the National Housing Corporation.
While we give a round of applause for the move to initiate a major overhaul, we also remind him to go also go a step further and commit himself to looking at how to make affordable housing a reality.
That is the biggest need felt in all urban centres in the country – decent housing for workers. Without that, the performance of workers will be affected and, therefore, the economy suffers.
For far too long the state entity entrusted to provide this basic human need has been unable to perform its core function effectively.
Instead of working hard to help Papua New Guineans acquire or build homes, the NHC has been caught up in a long history of chronic mismanagement and financial trouble.
It has attempted many housing schemes which have basically failed and to this day, the corporation is still struggling financially.
Families who have been beneficiaries of such schemes or have been long-term tenants have been threatened or forcefully evicted because they have failed to keep their part of the purchase agreement. This has been an all-too-common story for tenants of NHC properties throughout the country.
Some are reported by the media, many are not, of families subjected to the embarrassment of being forcefully evicted from such properties.
This has happened before and is likely to continue because there have been no transparent and honest transaction records of NHC properties over the years.
In some instances, there are more than one copies of titles to properties while in others, records of payments of term tenants, especially long serving public servants, are difficult to trace and authenticate.
This often results in families being victimised by the landlord or people who have supposedly purchased properties and have titles to them.
The eviction of entire families happens to be an act of last resort to reclaim properties from those who have defaulted on rental payments or owe money to the NHC.
While that appears to be the best available option, the NHC really should be a lot more considerate. What it does borders on degrading human beings?
There are serious reservations over the manner in which the NHC treats Papua New Guineans who have for years lived and raised families in their homes.
The NHC has also itself to blame for the poor state of its properties instead of finding fault only in its tenants and penalising them.
To drag someone out of the privacy and security of his home is equivalent to violating one’s dignity.
Tkatchenko’s announcement of an overhaul of the entire NHC system from working environment, work culture, systems and etc is a welcome relief to some of those families being threatened with eviction. Housing is a critical human need in all PNG urban centres and despite the rapidly expanding economy, chances of most urban families acquiring homes of their own remain slim.
The favourable economic conditions are aggravating the law of supply and demand. The limited volume of real estate is beyond the reach of most Papua New Guineans. There is no way someone earning, say K700 a fortnight, can afford rental accommodation besides meeting their other basic needs.
The situation will continue unless the State steps in to put a ceiling over the price of real estate.
The NHC is the one State agency that Papua New Guineans turn to for solutions to the serious shortage of housing and land in urban centres.

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