Sierra Leone: For too long, inadequate housing has been one of the endemic problems facing Sierra Leone. it requires creativity and ingenuity to dwell, especially in the capital city Freetown. The sharp housing deficit is caused by several factors and will require concerted efforts to surmount them.
From the seaside slum communities to the hilly slopes, people are using all manner of building materials to construct dwelling homes. The number of mud brick houses sprouting up in the city are numerous. The Communities of Mount Aureol, Dworzack, Mamba Ridge, Kissy Brook, Leicester Road are all witnessing the use of this ancient African architectural technology to address the housing needs.
The 2015 Population and Housing Census report indicates that there were 801,417 houses in the country with 1,265,468 households living in them. “42.8 percent of dwellings occupied by households in Sierra Leone are made of mud bricks.” It will require 464,051 houses to overcome the housing deficit.
Architect Abel Onomake, Director IDEAS LTD and Honorary Secretary of the Sierra Leone Institute of Architects, said the huge deficit in housing is due to major factors militating against the sector. “The Public and Private housing sector has not been given much attention by past and present government and the lack of properly planned settlement. We cannot divorce planned environment from properly planned settlement” he averred.
He furthered, “What we have in the housing sector is private homes with issues of encroachment and title. There is legal dichotomy between land titles in the Western Area and the provinces. This challenge has hindered private estate developers at home and abroad from investing resources to provide mass housing. Estate developers, want the freedom of investing anywhere they deem fit in the country to provide mass housing for citizens and other development ventures. “
“The quality of housing has been a major long standing problem in Sierra Leone and the situation worsened during the Civil War (1991- 2002). People fled their homes and buildings were built indiscriminately without regards to safety” the 2015 Population and Housing Census report disclosed. This survey revealed that the increase in population is a major factor affecting the availability of housing.
“Changes in size and composition of the population are influenced by three variables, birth, death and migration.” Klosterman (1990). The country’s population is over 7.09 million people; and projected to reach 10.3 million in 2030 with an average growth rate of 2.6 percent from 2011 – 2030. In 2002, the return of refugees that fled the war explains the high growth rate of 3.2 percent per annum between 2004 – 2015. And 40 percent of the total population is under age 15, the Census report outlined.
Meanwhile, this portrays an urgent need to solve the country’s housing problem. “Freetown City Council is planning to build 5,000 low-cost houses to meet the needs of displaced and low-income citizens of the city” reported the Sierra Leone Telegraph, 22 August 2019. In that report Mayor – Yvonne Aki-Sawyer, said: “The affordable housing is particularly aimed at easing the plight of the city’s populace, dwelling in mostly uncongenial habitations and dismally poor housing conditions.” Adding “In 1999, as a result of the rebel war, about 6,000 homes were completely destroyed in Freetown, especially in areas of Kissy, Wellington, Calaba Town, and Allen Town. It is estimated that by 2001 when the war was declared over, over 300,000 homes had been destroyed across the country, leaving about 1.2 million people internally displaced.” Up till now this plan has not materialized.
In President Julius Maada Bio’s inaugural Speech, Saturday, 12th May, 2018, under the theme: “Education for development” he did not mention specific goals for tackling the housing needs of the country.
However, the Director of Premier Enviro Solutions, Walid Bahsoon who has built the first plastic prototype house in Sierra Leone had said “the project has the potential to solve the housing and accommodation problem in the country. Due to financial challenges, we are embarking on the block manufacturing and sales hoping that the government and other institutions will find it attractive to invest in it.”
He furthered, “Our plastic block is 25% cheaper than a cement block. With Twenty Million Dollars we can build up to 2,000 housing units. With our blocks, we can build a two-bedroom self-contained flat within four days. With government support, we can build Rent to Buy houses for slum dwellers which will give them dignity. The rents paid will be used to build more houses for other people.”
“The Sierra Leone Institute of Architects (SLIA) is ready to collaborate with government in the proper planning of human habitat in the country” stated Architect Onomake. “The problem with urban planning and the rationalized layout of human settlement is the continuous application of antiquated and very old town planning laws. Some of these laws have been in existence before independence but they are still being enforced. In 2008, SLIA had provided government with a manual and well planned template for the development of rural settlement- Rural Housing proposal for the republic of Sierra Leone.” he added. This too was not implemented.
Consequently, government spends billions of Leones to compensate house owners whenever, they are to construct a highway in a community that is not properly planned. For example the Hillside Bye-Pass Road. Monies which could have spent on other development projects.
John Bangura, a mud brick house builder said people are turning to them for cheaper housing solution. “A two-bedroom mud brick apartment can cost below 12 Million Leones for workmanship and materials depending on the negotiation and the house can last for up to 5 years before maintenance” he noted. “it eliminates annual rent and that money can now go to meeting other family expenses. I have built over 50 mud brick houses for people in Freetown, and other provincial districts” he added.
“But I will not recommend the use of local mud brick to construct houses in those disaster prone areas because their strength is questionable. They can be used on the super structures and partitions but not the basement or foundation where they can be easily affected by erosion” Architect Onomake objected and further said “We need a minimum of 500 architects to meet our developmental aspirations. But, at the moment there are about 20 registered and active architects, 5 qualified quantity surveyors and less than 10 practicing urban and regional planners.”
Thus, to overcome our housing challenges, we need to maximize our collective efforts. DT/7/04/2021
By [email protected]