Thankfully Cheap, Unfortunately Insecure Housing

The unaffordability of even low-end apartments in the outskirts of Addis Abeba has long become a headache for many. Proprietorship of these apartments is not easy either. Among the most pressing is the safety of the residents in middle and low-income housing schemes.

Those that cannot afford high-end apartments by private real estate developers choose public housing in condos. But such residencies are unregulated and lack adequate security. One has to be either brave or in groups to take a walk during nighttime.

This is all the more concerning in recently completed sites where people have begun moving in. There are allegations of attacks even by uniformed police that roam the streets to carry out tasks that are a direct opposite of their duties.

With the country in an unfathomable political stalemate, few discuss the injustice surrounding these areas. This violence is a consequence of lack of security and the rule of law for the sporadic incidents are widespread.

Such perpetrators have in some cases been found to illegally stay residencies that have seen completion but have not been occupied by their owners yet. They pretend to be the kind neighbour while clearing household equipment’s of those in the vicinity in clear daylight for there is no security structure to hinder their actions.

Inconvenience such as this creates the fear of buying an apartment. There are strange but true stories of having to negotiate payment with the illegal dwellers. If it is not that, then it is homeowners having to investigate who lives next door before deciding to move in.

Until a significant share of the condo owners have moved in, where the sheer matter of being a minority deters the offenders, residents in the first couple of years of the completion of a new site are left to fend for themselves.

It is possible to avoid break-ins by only acquiring the bare necessities – cookware, mattresses and cheap furniture that do not attract attention – while moving in. But it is hard to avoid never to have to leave or enter one’s home in the early mornings or late evenings.

Still many take the risk. The condos are often cheap to rent or own. A one-bedroom flat fetches 7,000 Br in monthly rent in parts of the capital such as Gotera, but at a newly completed site like Bole Arabsa, could go as low as an astonishing 600 Br. The same flat can also sell as cheap as a little over half a million Birr while it would likely be three times as expensive in the commercial and business areas of the city.

Young people, especially those without children, are often bold enough to move into such areas. Financial matters are a great justifier when it comes to giving up one’s safety; just look at the hundreds of thousands of migrants that cross the Mediterranean.

But the authorities should take such a matter seriously. The fact that such areas are becoming crime infested is highly concerning. The city administration and law enforcement bodies must start paying attention.

Thanks to an urban growth rate of 3.8pc annually, fed by high migration from rural cities, there is massive demand for affordable housing. But people also need to feel safe, in their homes more than at anywhere else.

Communities in public housing echo a similar complaint – that they lack a voice, either with the authorities at their weredas and districts or with law enforcement bodies. Thus they take matters into their own hands, to protect themselves and their neighbours.

The ultimate and most fundamental purpose of any government is to assure security. The fact that individuals and communities are left to fend for themselves shows us an administration that is not living up to its name and the tax revenues it collects.

Insecurity breeds distrust in institutions and fuels public discontent. In the end, there will be little purpose in constructing houses if no one is willing to live in them.

There is no other way out of this aside from getting the authorities to carry out their jobs efficiently. There needs to be collaboration, and voices need to be heard. Most critically, the administration needs to take the cases of offences by law enforcers very seriously. They must be prosecuted according to the proper laws once their guilt has been established to serve as a deterrent against future ones. There is no accounting for collaboration if the other side cannot be believed to be trustworthy.


By Eden Sahle
Eden is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied Law and International Economic Law. She can be reached at

Published on Mar 24,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 934]



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