Not Yet Habitable

Delight of Homeownership marred by Incomplete Infrastructure for Condo Owners

The elation at being a homeowner, starts dimming almost instantly for those that move into Condominium apartments as they have to deal with incomplete infrastructure. Access to electricity, water and nearby facilities are hard to come by, inconveniencing new residents and raining on their parade writes Yetneberk Tadele, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.

People began to reside at the new condominium site, Summite, though the necessary facilities and infrastructures are under construction yet.

Ayechesh Tesfaye, a mother of two, tired but still smiling warmly, was doing her shopping at the Shola market late on Tuesday afternoon. Her mobile kept buzzing as her two daughters kept calling her from home at Ayat condominium. But it took her a while to get transport, a packed Higer Bus, into which a fellow passenger helped her to carry the plastic bags full of items she had bought.

This meant that she would have to travel standing all the way her condo. The music is loud and the interior of the bus suffocated.

“For how long?” she asked herself with some frustration.

She and her children were among the first to move to the Ayat condominium two years ago.

“I could not wait to come here,” she said. “I did not have my own home, and we had to rent a place from private rental houses. It is a lifelong gift.”

In response to the challenge in housing problem, the government outlined a vision for low-income urban housing development, formulated as the Integrated Housing Development Programme (IHDP), for all slums to be cleared within 10 years time and for the country to be a middle-income country by 2025.

In particular, the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) targets to construct and transfer 150,000 houses in Addis Abeba until 2014/15.

Bole-Gerji was the first condominium project to be constructed inEthiopia. It was initiated by the then GTZ and the city administration in 2002. It accommodated 750 housing units, composed of studios, and 1 and 2-bedroom units; an office building and several commercial units. As the project was the first of its kind inEthiopia, it received considerable support for its construction and major work was completed in a stint of eight months, although some elements remained unfinished.

Until the last fiscal year, 80,246 houses were built and transferred to residents. Currently, 83,895 houses are under construction. In a few months, the construction of 11,105 houses will be started, according to Yednekachew Walelegn, Planning manager at the Addis Abeba Housing Agency.

Though Ayechesh’s housing problem is resolved, she had lots of trouble living in her new condominium house at the beginning. She had to walk three kilometres in a muddy and dusty road for a long time. Even in the compound, it was very difficult to access paved roads. A year later they got their first cobblestone, although the three kilometres road is still under construction. Now transport is accessible with less frequency where she lives.

The absence of essential utilities has forced residents like Bosena, a mother of four to cook using firewood in front of her condominium flat.

According to a study by UN-HABITAT, it was stated that on early project sites, for instance Bole Gerji, roads were the final element to be built, so as to reduce damage to them by heavy machinery while construction work went on. However, this created major delays in project completion and now infrastructure is planned and implemented much earlier in the construction phase, concurrent with condominium block construction. However, the delay is more visible on the road construction of Ayat condominium project.

For Ayechesh, the delay of the construction and shortage of transportation is not the only problem; absence of street lights is a major problem. She must finish her errands and any business that takes her away from home, only in the day time. After the sun sets, she closes her door and sits back.

“Rape and theft are common here,” she says. “Even if you hear somebody shouting, it is very difficult to go out and help.”

According to her, a community police had been set up a few months ago, but there are only eight people in it. Residents also contribute 40 Br a month to pay for a guard in each building.

Like Ayechesh at Ayat, Bosena Addis and her four children are the first people to start residing atSummitcondominium site a week ago.

When living for many years in a tiny house at 4 kilo until she was resettled by the government, electricity was not a big deal. Her ambition was to own a house.

As the sun set on a clear sky on Wednesday, Bosena, stood in an airy living room, and smiled, breathing in the strong odor of fresh paint of the new room and grabbed the charcoal stove to cook a dinner for the family outside the  house.

Though her dream has came true, she now faces a constant electricity shortage and is forced to burn woods or use charcoal for cooking. She has to light a candle or use gas for the night.

Although her dream has taken an ironic turn she is still grateful., “no matter what, it is better than being homeless,” she says.

On the late afternoon of Tuesday, November 6, 2012, most people who won the housing lottery were lining up in front of the temporary offices of the District branches at the condominium site. They sign on the form, receive the keys and run to different buildings to see what their house looks like.

“In few minutes, you will see them coming back with lots of complains,” says Almaz Mekonnen, an officer from Bole District who was handing over the keys to the new owners.

From her one week experience, she knows that the complaints are that either the keys are not opening the doors, or the mirrors are broken, or the wall sockets and the switches are not working.

“We are giving out the houses before they are finalized,” says Gebremichael Zerabruk, officer from the Arada District. “There is no water supply and electricity,” states the major problems.

Some of the missing things, such as the electric sockets and switches are deliberately so, according to Yednekachew, in order to avoid theft before the houses were handed over.

The houses still do not have water supply at summit, power cables that were supposed to be buried under ground were hanging on wooden sticks and the roads which connect each building are not yet constructed.

According to the survey made by UN HABITAT, electricity and water supply authorities delay projects with their disorganization and limited resources which are unable to deal with the large-scale city-wide demands. One major infrastructure challenge facing the programme is the inadequate and small-scope of theAddis Ababasewerage system. The horizontal expansion ofAddis Ababa, particularly along the south-west and north-east regions of the city, has increased the cost of infrastructure provision and services on sites located in these locations.

Both Ayechesh and Bosena, who are living in different condominium sites, have more problems.  They are furious that they could find no schools nearby.

Ayechesh sends her children to a newly opened private primary school where she struggles to make the payment. Most of her neighbors send their children to schools upto 10kms away.

Bosena’s two children already dropped their education because of the distance of their previous school at Arat Kilo and the other two children have to stay with their relatives to continue their education.

These challenges of the residents are well understood by the housing project agency. The city is talking with the Health and Education bureaus to see how health and education facilities could be constructed, Yednekachew said. Thirty-five percent of the land areas already set aside for the development of such services.




Published on Nov 11, 2012 [ Vol 13 ,No 654]



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