Issues of housing are becoming very important as the urban population grows at a very rapid rate, particularly in developing countries. The number of people who are homeless and those living in substandard housing in Zambia is enormous. A home ownership programme through the sale of public rental housing to sitting tenants was seen as one of the strategies under the 1996
National Housing Policy aimed at solving the housing crisis in the country especially among the low-income groups. There are indications that although some people benefited through this
scheme, the problem of inadequate housing has persisted.
This study is aimed at exploring the effects of Zambia’s home ownership scheme in helping the low income men and women realize their housing rights. This was achieved by finding out the
main reasons for the sale of public rental houses; determining the eligibility criteria as well as how affordable the houses were. Other research questions were to assess whether ownership of
houses had helped people improve their houses and their economic status; and how home ownership has affected people’s lives in different dimensions. The theoretical perspective used in
this study is based on alternative development and Gender and Development (GA) under which the concepts of house/home as well as empowerment and rights were used as a basis for analyzing the findings of this study. A qualitative methodology comprising in-depth interviews, group discussions and simple observation was employed in order to gain a deep understanding of
the impact of the scheme from both house owners and officials at implementation level.
The study found that houses were sold in order to: fulfill economic policies of privatization and Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs); detach housing provision from employment; and empower the low income to improve their poverty situation. To qualify for the purchase of houses, a legal tenant in possession of tenancy card needed to be a Zambian citizen. The cost of houses were considerably low, and many people bought their houses but a number of people
were evicted as they could not afford due to economic hardships and malpractices in the process. Some of those who bought face a challenge in maintaining houses and paying land rates. The
privatization of housing had both positive and negative effects on the poor. The different ways in which home ownership impacted on the people’s lives ranged from simply provision of shelter to economic, social and psychological aspects. Some house owners’ economic status or security have improved to some extent due to ownership of a house as an asset as they are now able to make savings, resale the house, sublet it or trade at home.
Ownership of houses has also enhanced people’s feeling of belonging, stability and personal security. As a result people are able to organize themselves and work collectively in order to improve their neighbourhoods. However, some people were denied their rights hence became disempowered as they could not afford the purchase of their houses. Financial instability put most poor people at the risk of losing their houses as they are already defaulting in rates and fail to maintain them. There were no measures put in place to help the poor realize their housing rights by protecting them from evictions and ensure that they acquire decent housing. Therefore, the housing did not provide a sustainable solution to economic insecurity neither did it lead to meaningful economic empowerment as people did not participate in the decision-making process.