Cement now plenty and cheaper

The present monetary measures which resulted in building societies suspending lending money for new projects coupled with the current drought could be a blessing in disguise to the individual home developer who has ready cash.

Property prices that had been skyrocketing have now stabilised or even slumped. Building materials like cement and asbestos roofing which the individual developer was finding difficult to obtain are now not only available but are reported to be now much cheaper.

Sources say cement which at one time could be bought for more than $30 per pocket now sells for less than $20. This will allow those who had stockpiled material like bricks and window frames but could not build because of the shortage of cement to go ahead with their projects and those who were intending to extend their houses to do so. But the bottom line is having cash, which today is hard to come by.

By and large though most people will continue to suffer as they cannot afford to raise the cash both for new projects and for existing ones. This has created a vicious circle where houses may be on offer but people cannot afford them and those with houses which they can no longer afford cannot sell them even in the face of repossession.

Another unfortunate but very disturbing trend is that large companies that have spare capital seem to have embarked on large expansion programmes, probably in anticipation of better days to come, but at the same time they are retrenching hundreds of workers because, they say, there is no business at the moment.

The country's housing backlog is staggering. The estimated official shortage of housing units in urban areas is reported to be 500 000 with Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare having a combined waiting list of 145 000.

A standard house that cost less than $10 000 ten years ago now costs between $35 000 and $40 000 which means for one to afford such a house one has to earn about $2 000 a month. This means 80 percent of the urban population cannot afford the houses.

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