Shared knowledge and the formal housing process in Namibia
This study investigates issues related to housing in the period immediately preceding Namibia's independence in 1990. A formal housing process was inherited from the colonial era and during the decade before independence, this process became the one that was applied to provide housing for low-income people. Indigenous Namibians were excluded from decision making and participating in their own housing process in the municipal areas. Policies of apartheid maintained cultural distances and contributed to a condition of lack of shared knowledge concerning the formal housing process. To solve the housing problem, an increased role by low-income people in the housing process is emphasised by international agencies, as well as the new Namibian government through its National Housing Policy and the housing strategy. In the context of policy and strategy proposals based on this emphasis, lack of shared knowledge is identified as the research problem for this thesis. This follows from the argument that shared knowledge is important to enable people to take actions in solving their own housing problems. This lack of shared knowledge is investigated through aspects of the formal housing process dealing with the commercialisation of housing and the creation of the domestic environment. The research is done by using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, which include fieldwork in various urban areas in Namibia. It was determined that a limited awareness concerning certain financial and contractual aspects exists among house buyers. On the other hand, the domestic environment designs are based on principles of 'closed domesticated environments' for nuclear family and 'suburbs' for domestic purposes only, which do not reflect the way of life of the people occupying the houses. This is illustrated by an in-depth comparison of the socio-spatial characteristics of domestic environments designed on these principles, with those inhabited and created by the inhabitants themselves. To conclude, proposals are made in context of housing developments after independence. It is proposed that increased participation by low-income people can only overcome this lack of shared knowledge, if the housing process is made more accessible to people. An accessible process also has to be developed in partnership with people in need of shelter.