Interview: Amina Abdi Aden
What role does the private sector play in encouraging residential projects?
AMINA ABDI ADEN: The need for housing in Djibouti is linked to our population increase, which currently stands at 3% per year, resulting in the need for 3000 housing units annually. On top of that, we have a deficit of around 10,000 units that has accumulated over past years. We believe that a percentage of these 3000 new residential plots will be built by existing residents who own their own plot of land. Additionally, out of the 3000 houses needed, around 60% will be social housing. Until now the private sector’s contribution to the real estate market has been limited, as traditionally, most focus has been on the service sectors geared towards commerce, banking and transport, while expertise in real estate construction has been missing. Since the foundation of the Secretariat for Housing in 2011, a law has been created aimed at promoting national and international private sector participation in housing projects. The state alone cannot do everything or solve all problems. The strategy that has been defined implies that the state will take care of housing needs for the lowest-income groups, while for the other segments the private sector can and should take more of an initiative. We are currently negotiating with three international groups that want to invest in Djibouti’s real estate sector and plan to construct a 1000 housing units starting in 2016. National companies are also interested in private real estate promotion.
How has the strategy “Djibouti Zéro Bidonville” (Djibouti Zero Slums) impacted the informal construction of housing?
ADEN: There are two types of construction in Djibouti, one using quality materials and one using whatever is available. The Djibouti Zéro Bidonville strategy aims to tackle the issue on two levels; first we need to formulate a response to the need for housing for a large part of the lower-income population, and second we need to discourage everyone from moving into the city. For the period 2014-19, we aim to build 25,000 housing units. Financing has already been identified for this project. Some of the works will be executed by the state, some in the form of public-private partnerships and others solely by the private sector. A significant step was the activation of the “cession amiable” in 2010, which allows residents to purchase their homes built on government plots of land. We plan to transform all zones that are close to the city centre, and provide microcredit to the suburban lower-income areas to upgrade their existing housing. Complications have arisen because many of the inhabitants in these areas do not own their land. We have therefore recently put in place a special programme that assists low-income residents with the procedures to buy land, gain access to subsidised locally produced building materials and facilitates a payment system in several instalments to support home ownership. There are currently 300 people benefiting from this mechanism, and we expect this to be expanded to 2000 people in the near future.
What will be the impact of a possible launch of a bank dedicated to housing?
ADEN: Access to financing is a major issue in resolving the need for housing. Djibouti has a middle class that wants to be owners of their property, but who do not meet the bank’s rather strict criteria. The government has recently implemented an amendment to property law that will see an increase in the guarantees for banks when they provide loans. The Master Plan for Urban Planning and Development (Schéma Directeur d’Aménagement et d’ Urbanisme, SDAU) helps to identify new areas which can be reserved for housing. It also helps to develop and rehabilitate current housing structures so that citizens can benefit from better conditions and services.
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