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COMMENT: By Rebecca Kuku in Port Moresby

For the majority of Papua New Guineans living in the capital of Port Moresby, providing a home for their families is only a dream as housing has become a luxury that only the rich can afford.

Many families are forced to rent out single rooms for between K500 (NZ$200) to K800 (NZ$315) with common shared facilities like bathrooms, toilets and kitchens. Others move to the many settlements scattered around the city where houses can be rented for up to K1500 (NZ$600) fortnightly.

But it wasn’t always like this.

I was born and raised in Port Moresby and back in the 1990s when I was young, we used to live at Henao Drive in Gordons in a two bedroom, two storey house with a bathroom upstairs, a large dining room and living room downstairs.

The backyard was huge. We had a small duck pond and a BBQ place with a basketball court in the back. How did much my father pay fortnightly? Less than K300 ($NZ$118).

Houses, at that time, were being sold for between K10,000 (NZ$4000) and K20,000 (NZ$8000) at the new Rainbow suburb in Port Moresby’s North-East electorate.

Fast forward to the year 2000 and boom! The housing and rental rates in the city hit the roof….No. It went straight for the heavens.

We can only dream
I mean seriously … back in the 1990s we had homes. Today, we can only dream of one day providing a home for our children. It’s a sad reality for thousands in the city where most families can only afford to rent a room.

While many have cried for housing and rental rates to be regulated, the National Capital District Commission (NCDC) and the National Housing Corporation still do not have the powers to do so. Unless laws are passed on the floor of Parliament giving them the powers to do so.

Nothing has been done to address the issue. It makes one wonder if it is it because the people in authority who have the power to make decisions are also property owners. Property owners who make thousands out of the ridiculously high rental rates?

Houses on the rental market are priced at K1200 (NZ$470) to K3000 ($1180) weekly not fortnightly … WEEKLY! Looking at these prices you know right away that the majority of Papua New Guineans who are middle to low income earners won’t be able to afford this.

So, who do these real estate companies and property owners have in mind when they place ads for these prices? Expatriates? CEOs, managers and MPs?

What about the people, the people of this country?

Even the BSP First Home Ownership Scheme did not work out.

A scheme for the wealthy
How can a low to middle income earner afford the 10 percent needed to get that loan to purchase a home?

Again, it was almost as if the scheme was done to benefit only the wealthy.

Property developers have built many houses over the years to complement the First Home Ownership Scheme. But with houses going for K350,000 (NZ$137,000) to K500,000 (NZ$196,000) and the bank requiring a 10 percent down payment…. where are the people supposed to get the K35,000 to K50,000?

It’s high time the issue is addressed. The current government promised to “take back PNG” and they must do that by ensuring that their people’s welfare is taken care of. The housing issue must be addressed.

Laws and policies on real estate and housing must be reviewed, amended, changed to favor of the people.

There are so many aspects to the issue and many studies has been done by various organisations including the National Research Institute, over the years. Yet none of the recommendations have ever been implemented.

So, as the rich continue to live in their glass castles the people continue to suffer – living out of rooms, trying to earn a living and supporting their families.

Rebecca Kuku is an occasional contributor to Asia Pacific Report, a content contributor to The Guardian (Australia) and to the PNG Post-Courier. This article was first published on Scott Waide’s My Land, My Country blog and is republished with permission.

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