Housing still unaffordable


ANYONE who works hard to earn a living deserves to have a place to call home.
Housing is an important human need in all of Papua New Guinea’s urban centres and despite having a rapidly expanding economy, chances of most urban families acquiring homes of their own remain slim.
It is a problem that many families face and in spite of the building boom in some of our major centres, particularly the nation’s capital Port Moresby, it is fair to say that most citizens live somewhere between the margin that separates settlements from low cost basic housing.
One end of the spectrum, you have the foreign workforce and well-to-do Papua New Guineans (politicians, managers, businessmen and women) and the middle class occupying the best homes money can buy, while around them in every corner and crack shoot settlements virtually unhindered, populated by people who have next to no means for even the basics for a place of abode – services and amenities such as clean running water, electricity, a proper sewerage system in place and garbage disposal – are not freely available to those who live in these places.
An increasing trend one finds is that a good number of these settlement dwellers are actually formally employed and some even have tertiary level education and work over a wide cross section of the community in jobs in the private sector from banking to construction and in the public service from the police force to health and teaching.
This is the reality for many Papua New Guineans and the cry has been long and rough over the years, but now with the expansion of the middle class, the demand for better quality homes is getting louder and louder from all corners.
Some assurance we have had, the Government last year said it had undertaken several initiatives and projects under the national land and affordable housing programme as an immediate measure to provide affordable housing to public servants.
One such project is the Gerehu Stage 3B and Duran Farm housing project, and the Government was to continue to make further progress with the aim of making housing more affordable to ordinary Papua New Guineans.
The Government, through the National Housing Commission, had commenced developing the national housing policy in 2018 but with little progress in 2019.
Again, there is little progress since then.
The policy was to provide an overarching framework to allow for the provision of affordable housing.
Let’s hope it works.
We note that the Government had directed the Independent Consumer and Competition Commission to re-assess the real estate and housing review done in 2009 and provide solutions for the accommodation problem faced by urban dwellers.
The commission assessed that there were multiple suppliers of accommodation/housing, but due to excessive demand, the price charged was not reflective of the services provided by the landlords.
Hence, the Government would set service standards in the real estate industry and housing to be regulated starting last year.
Remains to be seen whether it has started.
If legislators could tighten the way, the property rental markets are run and make employers bear some responsibility for housing, their employees then we should see more people living in decent homes.
Unfortunately, the acute lack of affordable homes and increasing rental rates have driven many to the settlements or crammed them into suburban homes with as many as two or three families to a residence.