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News and Resources

Civil Society Helping to Change Housing Policy in Tanzania

News and Resources

By Salomé Labelle

Rooftops Canada Intern


The Habitat Forum Tanzania (HAFOTA) has been a participant in the Settlement Information Network Africa (SINA) program on Democratization, Civic Strengthening and Human Development. This article reports on how HAFOTA has been able to successfully engage the Government of Tanzania in its housing policy process.


In Tanzania, poor housing conditions are an issue for people in all regions of the country. In rural areas, where the majority of the population live, poor housing conditions and limited water/sanitation infrastructure increase the risk of contracting diseases. In urban areas such as in the city of Dar es Salaam, some 70 to 80 percent of the population lives in informal settlements. Most people do not have secure tenure on the land that they occupy, and have neither the incentive nor the means to invest in the improvement of their houses. This reality translates into very poor quality of housing linked to degrading sanitary conditions and increased health related problems. These effects compromise the achievement of Tanzania’s poverty reduction targets and slow down the economic development of the country.


Many Tanzanian non-governmental and community-based organizations have recognized these problems and are working in the area of human settlements development. They are helping their members and their community to secure land tenure and to build better and affordable houses. In 2002, a number of these organizations created HAFOTA, a national network whose mission is to “voice peoples’ concerns in housing, to lobby, and to engage the government to play a more proactive role in housing delivery”. Since its inception, HAFOTA has been active in the area of information dissemination and sharing of experiences on housing issues, and has lobbied for a pro-poor approach to housing in Tanzania.


One of HAFOTA’s initial successes was its instrumental role in advocating for the inclusion of the issue of human settlements development in the Tanzanian National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (NSGRP) which came into effect in June 2005.  Following the recognition by the government of Tanzania of the importance of access to adequate, affordable and secure shelter for all Tanzanians, a Housing Division was created within the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development (MLHHSD). The first mandate of the new Division is to design a Housing Policy for Tanzania. This should provide direction and specify objectives and intentions of the government in the housing sector. The Housing Policy will then guide the development of appropriate legislation to tackle different problems in this sector.


Since the beginning of the housing policy process, HAFOTA has positioned itself as an important stakeholder representing civil society in the field of housing. Recognized as such by the Ministry, HAFOTA was given access to the draft document of Tanzania’s Housing Policy. It then convened two consultative meetings with its members to discuss the content and propose recommendations to fill identified gaps. The first meeting in July 2007 discussed the first draft document, and the second one in November 2007 assessed which of the HAFOTA recommendations had been included in the second draft document. During the second meeting, participants were pleased to find out that most of their recommendations had indeed been integrated into the second draft version, either directly using the suggested wording or with minor changes. They also discussed other issues that they felt were not covered extensively in the document. These included the need to encourage the use of environmentally friendly building materials and the link between housing and HIV/AIDS. Suggestions were made on how these issues should be addressed in the final document. HAFOTA officers will continue to advocate for their inclusion in the final document in further meetings with the Ministry


The whole exercise has been an interesting one. It has both allowed HAFOTA members to directly participate in the policy process, and the MLHHSD has been very cooperative throughout the process. The added value that HAFOTA members, who have hands-on experience in the field of housing, could bring to the whole process has been recognised. Thanks to HAFOTA’s active participation from the very beginning of the process, the final document of the Housing Policy will stress the concerns of the poor and disadvantaged of Tanzania, and will commit to respond adequately to their needs. In a country where in 2000/01 about 35.7 percent of the population lived below the national basic needs poverty line, this is a major achievement.


But of course the process has just started. The most important task for HAFOTA in the next few months will be to monitor how the Housing Policy translates into improved pro-poor laws and regulations. These should insure that the government’s good intentions actually have a concrete and positive impact, and help achieve better housing environment in Tanzania. HAFOTA’s successful recognition by the Government of Tanzania as an important stakeholder and valuable partner in the housing sector have strengthened the case for a more open and participative policy process in other sectors. This is an important sign of a more vibrant democracy and a contribution to the good governance agenda.