By Tendayi Madhomu
The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has shattered the dreams of scores of locals wishing to own homes, telling them to “shut-up” if they cannot afford housing stands that have been priced in foreign currency (forex).
This comes at a time residents have challenged the city fathers over the decision which they say discriminates against the majority of residents who are seeking land to build houses.
In December, council approved the sale of housing stands in United States dollars (USDs); a move residents said was anti-poor and likely to condemn thousands on the housing waiting list to being permanent lodgers.
Yesterday, BCC advertised 77 residential stands, measuring an average of 1 575 square metres in the Selbourne Park low density suburb, which are priced at a staggering US$26 565.
In the advertisement, the local authority advised that successful applicants would be required to pay a deposit of 25 percent and 15 percent Value Added Tax, while the balance would be payable in 18 months.
Bulawayo town clerk Christopher Dube said there was no going back on the pricing of stands in forex which Zimbabwe’s second largest city hopes will shore up its sagging revenue base.
“I know there has been a lot of noise about who is going to afford stands priced in foreign currency when the majority is being paid in RTGS.
“But people should bear in mind that there are schemes that have not been completed. Where do you expect people to get the money to complete payments? People are struggling to pay, yet we have a local government to run,” Dube said.
The BCC town clerk said they are targeting Zimbabweans in the Diaspora and locals with forex.
“We are targeting those in the Diaspora; we want foreign currency period! Locals who also have access to foreign currency can also purchase the stands,” Dube said
Prior to the selling of the stands in forex, Zimbabwe’s second largest city had come up with an arrangement under which residents paying their bills in foreign currency would enjoy a 50 percent discount.
But this arrangement, according to Dube, has failed to yield the desired results, with residents preferring to convert their forex and make payments in RTGS dollars.
“Nobody has been willing to part with their foreign currency in paying council bills. The arrangement had been that clients would be accorded a 50 percent discount if they pay in forex but that has not been received well.
Some are saying maybe if the discount had been pegged at 70 percent; but we can’t be seen doing that, otherwise we will find ourselves on the wrong side of the law.
“Maybe with the introduction of a new conversion rate in the monetary policy the situation will be different,” Dube said.
While residents have complained about the forex pricing regime that the municipality has adopted, arguing that owning a house will remain a dream for the average person, Dube said times are also equally hard for the local authority.
“We are in a very difficult situation; even if we want to provide housing for everyone people are not able to pay, simply because they don’t have the money. As council we don’t create money, yet we need it to run the local authority. Of late we had an arrangement of pre-selling stands whereby we asked clients to pay in advance, but in the current situation people have no money,” he said. Daily News.