City of Harare has resolved to sell its rented residential accommodation to sitting tenants who have been in occupation for twenty years or more.
Many residents of council properties have called the buildings home for decades but, lacking tenure, have never felt comfortable investing in their upkeep and development.
Residents will be expected to make payments over five years. The properties will be sold on discount in high density areas while properties in the middle and low density areas will be sold at market value. Discount rates in high density areas will be based on the duration of occupation. Those with 30 years occupation or more will get a 50% discount while those with 20 years of occupation will get a discount of 40%.
According to the minutes of the Education, Health, Housing and Community Committee that met on 21 May, the proposed disposal of the rented residential properties will exclude housing units at council institutions such as work stations, farms, schools, and swimming pools.
Council hostels, flats at Trafalgar Court, Glen Norah B flats, Charles Briggs flats, Geneva flats, Mbare Confinement Centre and the PWD Compound will also be excluded. Other council properties not going up for sale include some houses and flats in Milton Park, Belvedere, Eastlea, Hillside, Borrowdale and all houses in Norton that are linked to Morton Jaffray Water Works.
“The council sets aside 50% of the total purchase price of the disposed accommodation to rebuild its social housing stock. The money shall be ring-fenced in a separate bank account… Where a sitting tenant fails or refuses to exercise the option to purchase, the housing units shall remain as council rented accommodation,” reads the minutes of the Education, Health, Housing and Community Committee.
The minutes also stated that sitting tenants must be paid up in rentals, water and other municipal charges as part of the conditions of sale. “The sitting tenant will be given three months within which to accept in writing the offer to purchase the property and sitting tenants should not own any other residential property.”
Speaking during the 1,844th Full Council meeting that was held on 28 May, deputy mayor Thomas Muzuva said that this exercise of selling houses to sitting tenants will give Harare a facelift as houses leased from the council were not renovated by tenants who were unwilling to make improvements to rented properties.
“Most council rented houses have been left out without any improvements because the occupants are afraid to uplift the houses due to uncertainty on the ownership status. So I believe this exercise will play a role in uplifting Harare in line with the World Class Vision,” said Muzuva.
Other residents who are set to benefit from the exercise have welcomed the development. Albert Hama (56) from Highfield, who has been staying in a council rented house for the past 23 years, said that the sale of rented houses to residents will allow many people a chance to finally own a house in Harare.
“This was long overdue and I am happy because I will finally own the house I have lived in for so long. I could not do any renovations to the house since it belonged to council but now I can extend the house to accommodate my big family,” said Hama.
However, other residents have complained about the manner in which council is selling the houses, terming it unfair. Sharon Magodyo, the Community Coordinator for Harare Residents Trust, said that the process would disadvantage residents who had paid some money towards the purchase of the houses before independence.
“Senior citizens in Mabvuku, Tafara, Chizhanje and Highfield have complained that their employers entered into contracts in the 1960s and 1970s with the city council which meant that a certain percentage was deducted from their monthly wages contributing towards purchase of the four roomed houses they were living in,” alleged Magodyo.
Magodyo claimed that some residents were in possession of agreements of sale and information which shows that the houses were paid for in full and said that residents have attempted without success to negotiate with council to reconsider the latest actions.
“But, at independence in 1980, Harare City Council formerly Salisbury Municipality changed the agreements that existed and informed residents that the houses were now rented accommodation. This implies that council illegally took over residents’ houses without their consent,” added Magodyo.