Monday, June 17, 2024

Bensouda details plans for affordable housing in KMC

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By: Dawda Baldeh

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Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) Mayor Talib Ahmed Bensouda, who is seeking re-election under the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) ticket, has given a detailed explanation of his proposed affordable housing plan within the municipality from 2023-2028 in an exclusive interview with The Fatu Network yesterday, May 15 at his KMC office in Westfield.

Bensouda outlined several development obstacles facing the municipality and said affordable housing is key among his agender if re-elected.

He described affordable housing as a key pillar of his plan from 2023-2028, saying housing is a big problem in the Kanifing Municipality.

“KMC is overpopulated due to rural-urban migration, high birth rate, and land constraints because it is one of the most urbanized regions,” he said, adding that most of the lands in KMC are already built.

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The incumbent mayor added that lands in KMC are one of the most expensive lands in the country. This, he noted, continues to make housing and rental prices very high due to the continuously growing population with limited land leading to skyrocketing prices of rent and land.

“One Wiseman said, ‘God has stopped creating lands but has not stopped creating humans so every human wants a land and that’s a problem.’

“We cannot control rental prices because the rent tribunal is no longer under KMC and is now at the Kanifing Magistrate Court. We do not have the mandate to bring legislations to create things such as price ceilings on rent,” he clarified.

He mentioned that to achieve the vision, they can be part of the suppliers to make housing affordable as it is happening in many countries globally.

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“In Senegal, they have a ministry of housing and in many countries, municipal councils create what they called affordable housing. For example, in the UK, they called it council flats,” he explained.

According to the incumbent mayor, the purpose is to cater to the most vulnerable people in society.

“In the case of our municipality, these are youths who are just graduating from school and looking for employment, youths in skills trade, new workers who are just beginning their lives and not earning a high income, vulnerable families such as women with small babies in many cases, divorcees, they are very vulnerable because they are the ones who are feeding the children, paying for their school fees, paying rent and there is a lot of pressure on their income,” he highlighted.

Bensouda told The Fatu Network that landlords are increasing rent monthly due to the higher cost of living.

Asked about how he intends to go with the plan with the limited lands within the municipality, Bensouda emphasized that they will partner with private, individual landowners and the central government to make housing affordable for the people.

“KMC as a council doesn’t have enough lands even the government doesn’t have enough lands in KMC. There are a lot of individuals who have empty plots, sometimes abundant houses and we intend to partner with those people to create affordable housing in those communities.

“The few lands we have in some cases are quarries and some are just empty lands like in Abuko, we intend to bring about a project. To get funding, we have set up a task force comprising Doudou Mbye as chairperson who is a longtime serving member of UN-Habitat and specialist on urban planning on affordable housing, Lamin Manneh, formerly part of the AFDB, an expert in sourcing for financing, Lamin Sanneh, who is working formally with Standard Chartered and now working across the globe in international finance and most people know him as the head of OIC before and he is one of the engineers of the OIC project and he is an expert in souring for finance,” he revealed.

Bensouda expressed optimism that the task force will look at private equity, how to attract investors, grant funding, and how to partner with the central government or Social Security and Housing Finance Cooperation to make affordable housing a reality.

Quizzed on the unforeseen circumstances in getting lands from the central government, Bensouda responded: “There will be a lot of obstacles and we know that is a possibility.

“We requested lands from the government for different projects and we didn’t get it, but we requested lands from the government for some projects and we got it. They can be political obstacles; they can be limited lands obstacles but that’s why we are looking at an array of solutions and one is looking at private owners.

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