By Tsitsi Matope
MASERU — The Maseru South West suburb (Masowe) is the latest giant housing project blossoming in the capital and promising to become one of the most attractive and well-planned settlement.
The pride of the Lesotho Housing and Land Development Corporation (LHLDC), Masowe is expected to accommodate thousands of people, many of whom have already comfortably settled in the area.
Divided into four phases, it has been a hive of activity since construction of houses started a few years ago.
This is evident of how many people nowadays value settling in well-planned and habitable settlements.
‘Mampho Tjabane, a resident of MasoweIII, said her life changed when she moved to her new home last year.
“This brilliant development has provided my family with the opportunity to own a decent three-bedroom house in a planned area. It is quiet and beautiful. We are very happy here,” she said.
She says after staying in an unplanned settlement for more than 10 years — where her family depended on communal tap water — she realised there were more benefits that came with staying in a well-planned suburb.
“We have water in our house, electricity and also a good road, something we did not have where we used to stay,” she says.
In an interview this week, the LHLDC’s Operations Director, Habofanoe Lehana confirmed there was a high demand for similar housing projects in Maseru and some other districts.
“It is clear that people nowadays want to stay in planned and decent areas where they can easily access basic services. They want security and legal tenure. In all our projects, it is evident that what we offer encourages prospective home-owners to invest substantially in the houses and the serviced residential plots we sell. This fact not only provides owners with decent shelter but also contributes towards the socio-economic development of the country,” Lehana said.
The Lesotho Housing and Land Development Corporation was established in 1988 as a government parastatal with the responsibility to provide serviced land, rental accommodation and construct houses for ownership.
It is currently constructing houses at Masowe III where over 300 plots have been reserved for housing. Over 150 of these plots have already been developed.
“We still have houses on sale. We try as much as possible to build houses which the prospective buyers prefer and can afford,” Lehana said.
However, some civil servants interviewed this week said although they would also want to buy the houses on offer, they cannot afford them.
“Lack of affordability is my major challenge, particularly now when some of the banks we relied on have tightened their lending and mortgage parameters,” ‘Mateboho Mokhothu said.
Another resident, Liteboho Tlali said his hope of owning a house next year was shattered when suddenly his bank introduced new measures that capped how much clients can borrow.
“I don’t know of any other way that can help people like me to also buy a house in Masowe,” he said.
The houses currently on sale in the high to medium-income in Masowe III cost between M577 000 to M1.1 million.
However, Lehana said the corporation was aware of the financial difficulties many prospective buyers were faced with and as a result, introduced the “rent-to-buy scheme”.
“This allows people to rent some select houses on condition that within five years they would eventually buy the houses. We have introduced this scheme in Masowe III where one-bedroom houses are already being rented out at M2 800 per month.”
He explained that fifty percent of the rentals go towards rental fees and maintenance of the house for five years. The other fifty percent is used to build-up the deposit for five years after which the owner would be expected to buy the house.
“The other schemes in the Masowe III are houses on sale to cater for the middle and high-income earners.”
Lehana said this boom in the construction of houses in Masowe provides employment opportunities and also attracts new investments.
“Ensuring that we have well-planned settlements and good housing is an important development that can attract investors. On the other hand, houses in well-planned settlements can also be used as security by the owners to secure bank loans for other developments.”
According to Lehana, who is also a town planner by profession, the corporation’s efforts are however hampered by scarcity of land for residential development in Maseru and some districts.
The corporation, which does not depend on government subsidies, generates its own revenue and boasts of several other successful land and housing development projects in Maseru (apart from Masowe), Teyateyaneng, Hlotse, Butha- Buthe, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek and Quthing.
Successful projects that include Ha-Matala Phase I and II and Thetsane highlight the crucial role the corporation plays in the country’s housing development and in particular in Maseru.
“We are currently negotiating for more land in Maseru. It is difficult to get areas that have not yet been developed. While we see the possibilities of extending beyond areas we are currently working in, it would require bulk infrastructure-development and, as a result, make the residential sites unaffordable to the people we are targeting,” Lehana said
The corporation’s management, he added, is also aware there is a lot of idle and under-utilised land, which it hopes could be made available by its owners for residential development purposes.
“We would like to concentrate on the densification of under-utilised land within the city boundaries and the re-development of certain areas before moving out of Maseru City boundaries. We are however careful about how we might want to expand and upgrade any settlement as this might impact negatively on the available land.”
In Ntjabane, Teyateyaneng, the corporation is winding-up the sale of close to 1 000 serviced residential sites, measuring 400 to 700 square metres.
“Our strategy, which is focused on meeting the needs of various people, makes us a leader in the housing development sector,” Lehana proudly proclaimed, adding the planned nature of the residential areas is also a major attraction among potential-homeowners.
Lehana further explained that despite the corporation’s efforts in other districts such as Leribe, just like in Maseru, scarcity of land is a major challenge.
Currently, the corporation has sold 800 serviced sites in Hlotse, 500 residential sites in Tsalitlama in Mafeteng, close to 200 in Quthing and 450 in Mohale’s Hoek.
“We have 200 sites ranging between 450 and 700 square metres remaining in Mohale’s Hoek. The beauty in people spreading their wings from the capital, Maseru and investing in smaller towns – is an additional attraction to this quiet town.”
The corporation also rents-out five estates, mainly the 50 units at Friebel town-houses, 20 housing units at the Leseli complex in Hills View, apartments in Qoqolosing in Maseru West and 167 units at the Kuena and Letsie Flats in the western part of the Maseru Central Business District.
According to Lehana, over the years, the corporation has realised the demand for affordable rented accommodation was steadily increasing, particularly among tertiary students.
He added inadequate finance was the major limitation for them to increase housing and rental portfolios.
“The current legislation limits our borrowing powers. However, the situation may change for the better following the legislative reviews which we are working on with the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs,” he said.
In the meantime, he explained, the corporation is exploring a number of options, which include partnering with the private sector.
“We don’t see the private sector as competition and would like them to become involved for the positive transformation we are envisaging for all the districts. It is a challenge, but together we can,” he said.