Govt should address housing issue

Editorial

MANY Papua New Guineans dream of owning homes in major urban centres like Port Moresby and Lae but few can afford the costs associated with home ownership.
A house is usually the most expensive single purchase an individual or family makes.
Given the high cost, most individuals do not have enough savings on hand to pay the entire amount outright.
In many countries such as PNG, mortgaged loans are available from banks and other financial institutions.
If the home owner fails to meet the agreed repayment schedule, the bank or financial institution may repossess the property.
Commercial banks also offer housing loans with various requirements.
And our banks are helping to make the dream of owning a home become a reality which should be supported by the Government to create a pathway for citizens to have access to specially structured loans to acquire their first home.
Home ownership gives occupants the right to modify the building and land, protects them from eviction, and creates a right to occupation which can be inherited.
Houses and the land they sit on are expensive, and the combination of mortgage, insurance and maintenance are sometimes greater than monthly rental costs.
Buildings may also gain and lose substantial value due to real estate market fluctuations, and selling a property can take a long time, depending on market conditions.
This can make home ownership more constraining if the owner intends to move at a future date.
Traditionally, home-ownership was encouraged by Western governments because it was thought to help people acquire wealth, encourage savings and promote civic engagement.
The PNG Government, as the employer with the largest workforce in the country, has been promoting home-ownership through its various schemes as well as providing rental accommodation for civil servants since independence.
The entity tasked with this role and responsibility has been the National Housing Corporation (formerly National Housing Commission), which is neither a state-owned enterprise nor a fully-fledged government department.
This rather strange status has in effect starved the corporation of adequate funding to fully implement the Government’s home-ownership schemes.
As well, the chronic lack of funding has resulted in the failure by the NHC to fully maintain and upgrade its existing housing and accommodation properties throughout PNG.
To add salt to injury, the corporation has been dogged by operational and financial mismanagement issues for much of its existence.
The housing minister is already making noise about housing in the country, maybe a sign of good things to come.
Research conducted into the housing situation in the country and the recommendations that need to be implemented to strengthen the industry have never been taken seriously by the Government.
It is timely now that the Government put its foot down to take appropriate policy measures to address housing plights of all citizens whether they be public servants, employees of private sector, citizens living in the informal sectors, rural dwellers, or even refugees and migrant workers because having access to an affordable shelter is a basic humanitarian right under the relevant United Nations Convention.

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