Project type: Residential, Urban Planning
Location: Namibia, Africa
Status: in Progress
Namibia is experiencing a housing crisis. Strategies currently employed to reduce the backlog are proving ineffective. Increasing demand escalates prices, meanwhile the country’s rapid urbanization maintains a steady influx of low wage earners from rural areas seeking better opportunities in urban areas. The newcomers are greeted by too few rental offers, at too high a cost, resulting in the majority of rural-urban migrants living in shacks on the outskirts of cities.
Housing policies in Namibia favor single story detached housing sitting on a minimum 300 sqm plot of land, requiring a great deal of land to be levelled and serviced at high cost, but benefiting few. Additionally, zoning practices keep residential and commercial uses separate, resulting in an urban sprawl which forces people to either live hours of commute from jobs and job opportunities, or to rent informal shacks in the underused gardens of those living closer to urban centres. Within these informal settlements however, the highly entrepreneurial residents have created a second, informal job market, so that one finds several businesses at every junction.
Our design seeks to provide a model for provision of housing that reverses the trend of unaffordable and unsustainable development, by reducing the costs involved in the construction of housing and providing a structure for future growth and activity within the new neighborhoods. We identified three key design elements for achieving this:
– Densification: reducing the plot size of the houses, to reduce the amount of serviced land and related costs for each unit, as well as reducing construction material by using housing typologies which have shared construction elements (ie attached housing and apartments).
– Mixed-Use: to provide a hybrid architecture which facilitates using the home for business at varying scales.
– Incremental housing: using modular elements that allow a compact core to extend vertically and/or horizontally in a cost efficient manner.
These key elements, Densification, Mixed-Use, and Incremental housing, as well as the particular climate of Namibia, led to the development of three typologies: Townhouses, Courtyard houses and Apartments. The typologies are designed so that they can be combined to create an urban scape as vibrant and inviting as the community that grows within it. The built-in cost efficiencies open up a potential market for private developers within the low cost sector which was previously only approached by subsidized housing programs that failed miserably. Making low cost housing units not only affordable but profitable is the only realistic and sustainable answer for a solution desperately needed on a large scale – the prime objective of the cooperation of GRAFT together with KFW.