If people complaining against the recent Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) 48 percent rental hike were as young as yours truly, I would not have an axe to grind against them. But most of them are grey-haired old folks, who should at least by now have built a house or two.
Ladies and gentlemen, Eunice Napolo, the new chief executive officer of the rebranded MHC is not running a charity organisation or sakugawa ma sweet as we on the street would call it. She is there for business: to revive an MHC which was on its death-bed.
MHC was established by an Act of Parliament of 1964 to spearhead the government’s housing policies.
Some of its core functions include the provision of affordable housing and acquiring capital for housing development. And most recently there was an ammendment to the MHC Act, which gives the corporation powers to operate as a commercial entity. So in case you did not know, the institution has abandoned its Father Christmas role.
Whereas the MHC has made giant strides in ensuring that many have a roof over their heads, over time, its management has often been accused of malfeasance; selling houses and land with absolute abandon.
The State-funded outfit has not met the rising demand for affordable housing consigning many Malawians to living in sink. And where it has provided for housing, the acts of its officers have not been beyond reproach with many reports of abuse of office and corruption.
But that aside, following the recently approved Public Service Reforms Programme (PSRP), MHC looks a changed problem child.
Stone me to death and drag my body in the streets, but truth be told, what MHC has done is commendable because, the rental hike means (acquiring capital), it will collect more money which it can invest in its structures including building more houses—15 000, MHC said last week.
As a tenant, the most respectful thing you can do when angered by a rental hike is to move out of the house for an affordable one. No?
We on the street, have for many years endured unjustifiable rental hikes in Mtandire, Ndirande, Zolozolo while our colleagues living in MHC houses comfortably enjoyed below-inflation rentals. Did we mobilise ourselves to protest the hikes, no. Now that the tables have turned, should we all rise up against MHC, hell no!
Get me right, I am not celebrating the MHC rental hike, but MHC houses have been cheap for a very long time.
Ladies and gentlemen, imagine, one fellow, we on the street met at Chitawira last week. He has been renting an MHC house since 1975. Then the house was at K8.75 per month. Before the hike, he has been paying K9 000 monthly rentals for his two-bedroom house. With the 48 percent rental hike, he has to cough around K19 000 for the house every month.
Where in this country’s cities would you find an MHC-quality house going for K20 000 a month? In Lilongwe, house rentals, are even higher that you won’t event find a ‘servant quarters’ going for such rates.
Yes, MHC is supposed to build and provide affordable houses for all Malawians. MHC has been doing this all these years. Isn’t it time some of MHC tenants started thinking of investing in their own structures and retirement homes to ease housing pressures on MHC? Why are we clinging to these MHC houses? Isn’t it because they are too cheap?
Word on the street is that, the 48 percent MHC rental hike should be a lesson to many. An MHC house is not a permanent home, simokalambilamo.
We on the street also think it is high time MHC introduced a by-law that no tenant should stay in its houses for more than 10 years. In that way we will ensure that most poor Malawians benefit from cheaper and affordable housing.n