Housing agency deserves clean-up

Editorial

IT is a relief to finally see a lifeline being thrown in the direction of the National Housing Corporation (NHC), which for years has been barely keeping its head above water, weighted down by shady deals and practices.
This important State entity everyone, especially workers, had been expecting to provide them affordable housing in urban centres has let them down very badly.
For a long time it has been hitting reef after reef with taxpayer funds leaking out of gaping holes without any effective remedial measures taken.
Thankfully Housing and Urban Development Minister Justin Tkatchenko has started the process of salvaging and steering it to safer, calmer waters, eventually to profitability and back on course to achieve what it was set up to do.
First, its workforce of more than 300 is going to be reduced by at least 100.
The new staff structure is now before the Minister for Public Service for approval.
All staff will have to re-apply for positions and go through the normal recruitment process.
The useless weeds and pests will be eradicated this way.
Second, the new NHC staff will be paid through the Government’s Alesco payroll system, same as public servants.
The qualified ones who deserve a higher pay level can expect that, with good work conditions.
At a time when affordable housing is very much needed in urban areas, Tkatchenko deserves a pat on the back for what he is doing to streamline the system.
It has been long overdue.
The people cannot be blamed for having lost confidence in the NHC’s ability to provide good and affordable housing.
Its housing projects are rotting away because of poor and ineffective management.
The fat cats came, devoured what they could, leaving the institution and the taxpayers the much poorer for it.
The NHC deserves a new lease of life.
It deserves people involved in the real estate industry and others who have a genuine interest in and qualification on housing matters.
While there has been a fair amount of criticism levelled at the industry players, they are not solely responsible for the high rental costs.
The price is largely determined by the principle of supply and demand.
The provision of affordable housing is not about government controlling of regulating rentals but meeting the high demand for housing.
There has been a modest investment in lower cost housing but the quantity is still inadequate to substantially alter the supply and demand equation making it impossible for Papua New Guineans in the city to afford good and affordable homes for their families. There is also the land issue.
What is driving the cost of housing in the city and even the country beyond the reach of most citizens is the scarcity of state land to sell or lease to real estate companies or individuals for housing development.
State land in Port Moresby has all been taken up and settlements and other developments are already encroaching on customary land.
The people need the NHC – but an efficient and well-managed one which will provide them a basic necessity of life.
Tkatchenko and his crew are on to something big, positive and promising to refloat and steer the suffocating vessel in the right direction.
We wish them well.

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