BULAWAYO City Council has suspended the sale of housing stands, citing currency distortions in the country less than two months after residents rejected its bid to sell stands in hard currency.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
The council in December approved the sale of housing stands in United States dollars, a move residents said was anti-poor and likely to condemn thousands on the housing waiting list to being permanent lodgers.
Government has been insisting on a 1:1 bond note and US dollar parity despite the local currency trading at a premium of 300% on the black market and according to Bulawayo mayor Solomon Mguni, the local authority has been left with no option but to suspend selling housing stands to hedge against losses.
“We are not selling housing stands because of currency distortions. The cost of delivering the stands is way too expensive as contractors servicing stands on our behalf want foreign currency, which we do not have,” Mguni told Southern Eye at the weekend.
“So for now, we have not signed contracts for the servicing of housing stands. We are now engaging residents on the way forward. The thing is that if we charge in foreign currency, we risk creating land barons or having stands being grabbed by those with access to foreign currency for speculative purposes, leaving out genuine residents who are in need of the stands.
“We are a pro-poor council and very mindful of those dynamics and those factors that is why we have said for now we would rather not sell any housing stands.”
The local authority has been struggling to service stands due to the harsh economic climate which is characterised by currency distortions, resulting in sharp increases in prices of goods and services.
Latest council minutes by the lands and housing committee shows fears that the economic instability would result in housing stands being priced beyond the reach of those in need, hence the proposal to suspend the sale of the stands.
Council housing stands range from $4 000 and upwards of $10 000 in bond notes, depending on the size and location.
Bulawayo’s housing waiting list stands at over 120 000, but the council has only managed to service less than 20 000 stands in the past 15 years, leading to a massive housing