Exorbitant housing costs worry CIF

• By Business Reporter

THE Construction Industries Federation of Namibia (CIF) has expressed concern over housing cost increases caused by new project specifications, unwarranted delays, which ultimately also impact the cost in every stage of a house building project, which then also escalate the price for the end-user.

The federation this week said that these delays and increases are despite the fact that the City of Windhoek (CoW) is placing utmost urgency and importance on land and housing delivery.

“The interest of stakeholders in the construction industry is indeed very much aligned with the leadership of the CoW, who intend to prioritise land and housing delivery in Windhoek. However, the CoW administration has issued new in-house project specifications to contractors which are to be applied to all new infrastructure projects in Windhoek.

“Major changes include unrealistically high quality assessments, with requirements well beyond the relevant publicly known, well-established and generally enforced standards (SANS and SABS),” explained Bärbel Kirchner, CIF general manager.

She further explained that the new specifications undermine efforts to ensure swift land delivery and is in direct contrast to the announcement by the new mayor, Sade Gawanas, who indicated that land delivery has the highest priority for CoW in the near future.

“Whilst the need for land servicing and housing in the capital city is exceptionally high, the demand cannot not be optimally met unlike in other cities and towns in Namibia, where well-established and reliable standards are used.

“The new project specifications lead to excessive long waiting periods between the phases of works until tests are available.

The CIF is of the opinion that the new specifications are delaying contractors and the growth of Windhoek, which are not aligned with the reality on the ground,” Kirchner noted.

In order to determine the implications of the new project specifications issued by the CoW, contractors and engineers have done detailed assessments on the new testing requirements and have found that the cost of all new projects and developments will increase by 40 to 100 percent.

At the same time, the timeline of projects is extended needlessly, leading to double or triple the time required to complete projects.

“In addition to the new project specifications, other persistent delays are caused by what appears to be the decision-making processes within the CoW, where it seems that respective divisions within the authority are not communicating with each other, and instead appear to be working in silos.

“Building and construction works requires inspections and related approval in order for building projects to progress, yet different division may have different requirements for the exact same piece of work. The absence of someone overriding conflicting decisions are problematic and again cause delays,” adds Kirchner.

She also stated that contractors and other stakeholders in the construction sector are immensely frustrated as any request to address the situation so far is being ignored by the responsible CoW engineers and as of yet, there is not effective engagement from the municipality to find a solution.

“The implementation of the new project specification system was a one-sided decision without the involvement of contractors and consulting engineers as the main stakeholders involved with implementation.

“Any delays not only mean that the urgent delivery of housing is not happening as optimally as it should.

Excessive quality assurance measures also mean that costs are increasing tremendously. This needs to be solved as soon as possible, so that the housing shortage in our capital city can be effectively addressed immediately,” extended Kirchner adding that a possible solution would be that CoW would follow existing standards and test frequencies which are based on the existing SABS standards.