We are running a competition for housing professionals to visit the earliest social housing projects in Africa. The highlight of this feature is the travel diary of one of last year’s winners, which I edited down from her blog entries and reports back home.
Our Into Africa competition gives three lucky readers the chance to visit social housing projects on the continent. Jess McCabe reports on what this year’s winners learned from their prize trips
In the UK, social housing has a long and storied history. But in most of Africa, the sector’s narrative is only just beginning to unfold, and three lucky readers will soon have the chance to go to see it first hand.
For the second year running, Inside Housing is partnering with charity Homeless International for our Into Africa competition. The winners will have the chance to travel to Africa for seven days, visiting some of the housing projects that Homeless International supports.
As this year’s winners found, the competition gives the opportunity to learn about some of the first social and affordable housing projects to be launched on the continent. For a taste of what the winners have in store, follow the journey taken by one of last year’s winners, Alex Willey, asset strategy manager at Affinity Sutton, as she visited some of the first affordable housing projects in Malawi.
Larry English, chief executive of Homeless International, encourages housing professionals at all stages of their career to apply: ‘The UK has a massive reservoir of talent around housing. About 250,000 people work in the UK housing sector – professional people. For us, the sad thing is they’re focused only on the UK.’
These projects are getting off the ground with little or no government subsidy, and often in the face of significant housing problems. For example, another of this year’s winners, Rob Hunter, a research officer at Walsall Housing Group, travelled to Tanzania, where 66 per cent of the country’s 44 million people live in urban slums. As part of his travels, Mr Hunter visited an informal settlement in the country’s biggest city, Dar es Salaam.
‘While the levels of poverty I saw and the chaotic environments were shocking to me, the settlement was actually pretty good,’ he explains. ‘All the homes were permanent structures built of solid materials. Many had electricity and there is now an established rubbish collection by the municipal authority.’
But as the last of this year’s winners found, learning can go both ways, and some of these challenges are definitely shared. Joe Thomas, housing services manager at One Housing, who visited Nairobi in Kenya, says: ‘I found many parallels in their desire to become more self-financing and develop into a social enterprise in order that profits could be reinvested into their social goals for their own Kenyan market.’