The Paradox of Low-Cost Housing in Cameroon: When The Rich Gets It All

An increasing number of people in Cameroon’s economic capital, Douala are on a daily basis facing the age – old problem of housing.

With Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions plagued by violence since 2016, thousands of people have moved to the Littoral region and Douala in particular to seek refuge.

Solving the problem of housing remains a difficult one in Cameroon with the high cost of acquiring land and skyrocketed prices of building materials that practically keep most Cameroonians out of the reach of decent houses in urban areas.

Unofficial statistics show that three million, five hundred and thirty six thousand (3.536.000) people live in the city of Douala as of 2019, giving an increase of 3.63% as compared to 2018. The increase in the population size does not in any way have a corresponding increase in the number of houses constructed in the economic capital of Cameroon.As such, house rents have more than doubled while flood-prone areas and other shanty neighborhoods have had new houses put up.
In places like Makepe Missoke, Bois des Cinge, Essengue and a lot more, some desperate city dwellers have put up makeshift structures just to cover their heads.
In these areas, floods, mosquitoes, banditry and general insecurity remain the order of the day.

A top official of PAMOL, an oil producing company in the South West region of Cameroon on the basis of anonymity confesses his ordeal in search of a house in Douala.“… when it became really complicated for me to get a house in the quarter, I decided to seek for an apartment at government low-cost houses constructed at Mbanga Bakoko at Douala 3.

At the department in charge of selling apartments of low cost houses, I was told that apartments cost between FCFA 17 and FCFA 19 million ( about 28.763 – 32.147US Dollars) paid over a period of ten years.”In total disappointment given that he lost all his investments in the course of separatists attack in the South West, he thinks the financial modalities surpasses what he can afford.At the one stop shop for the commercialization of low cost houses in Douala, the modalities for eligibility to purchase an apartment amongst others include a twenty thousand FCFA (34US dollars) non refundable sum, tax clearance receipt for businessmen and proofs of being a worker either in the public or private sector in Cameroon alongside the signing of an engagement form to occupy the apartment for at least five years.

According to an official at the one stop shop for the commercialization of low cost houses in Douala, the sum for the purchase of an apartment is paid over a period of ten years.
For civil servants, the money is deducted from their salary while those in the private sector pay directly into the account of the state monthly.

To Ngambi Emmanuel, a Douala based dealer in second-handed dresses, purchasing an apartment from government’s low cost housing scheme “… is principally for top civil servants and other people connected to the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, the CPDM political party of President Paul Biya.””My brother abroad assigned me get modalities for him to purchase an apartment at Mbanga Bakoko government low cost house in Douala, but for over a year now, the file I deposited has not received any favorable response.”

To Ngambi Emmanuel, his brother took the option of constructing a house after concluding that he needed to be ‘connected’ with someone in the government to guarantee an apartment.The allegations have however been described as ‘baseless and unfounded’ by an official of the one stop shop office charged with the commercialization of the apartments.
While opting not to disclose her identity, the official turned down requests by Mimi Mefo Info to have a copy of a list of those that have purchased some apartments.
At the moment, low cost houses constructed at Mbanga Bakoko in Douala remain empty while the urban and rural poor virtually live on the streets.In Cameroon, the minimum wage stands at thirty six thousand two hundred and seventy (36.270) FCFA, slightly above 61US dollars. This presents a difficult financial situation to those earning the sum and living in cities to afford accommodation.To most Cameroonians, the construction of the houses aimed at assisting low income earners to live in decent houses in cities in Cameroon is not a reality given that the cost stands far above the purchasing power of these Cameroonians.

Mimi Mefo Info.

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