It is the belief of NHC that housing should last more than the owners lifetime with normal maintenance. Modern housing is the most expensive thing that most people will own and most buyers seem to expect to leave the house to their children. If housing is constructed to standards below the level of the conditions it is expected to endure, it is actually a great disservice to the owners and a waste of resources. NHC believes affordable housing can be constructed to last and anything less is really defrauding the people of PNG.
The National Housing Corporation is the sole Public Housing Agency in Papua New Guinea.
Before the Europeans came, PNG was a country of home owners. All citizens were home owners. However, the country went through rapid changes as it developed. As citizens were uprooted and moved to the urban centres and other areas to work they typically lived in employer-provided housing.
After Independence it was thought it would be best if the citizens again became homeowners and the various governments implemented programmes to promote this. Most of these programmes were to allow the people living in government homes to own them. These programmes were successful and now most of the government houses are now privately owned. However, no successful schemes were developed to provide a new supply of housing. This, combined with the rapid growth in the urban centres, has given us the current severe housing shortage. The onus of providing housing was passed on to private industry.
In the late 80’s it became obvious that the delivery of adequate new housing units was not working and the government responded by combining the agencies responsible for housing into the National Housing Corporation. The NHC was formed by Act of Parliament in 1990 and operates as a commercial statutory authority. Thus NHC took on a very large percentage of the existing formal housing in PNG, mostly built before Independence and the movement towards private ownership of housing.
Undeniably, turning housing delivery over to private industry has some very positive aspects. However, where NHC was responsible for providing housing, the citizens were much better housed. Private industry has focused on the areas where the most profit is, housing for the very well-off, leaving the normal citizens feeling lucky if they get to share an over crowded house. In providing housing to Papua New Guineans, private industry in the most part has failed miserably.
In most developing and developed countries the construct ion industry plays a significant role in economic well-being and success. Housing is a major component of this industry. Also various studies have shown that citizens without adequate housing have low productivity. In most countries one can judge the success and well being of the country just by looking at the way it houses its people and PNG is no different.
The National Housing Corporation has gone through a major restructuring assisted by the World Bank and as a result is embarking on ambitious programme to give direction to the admittedly fractured PNG housing industry. It believes that the best solution to PNG’s housing shortage is through a combined effort by private industry and government. As part of this NHC is in the process of developing a comprehensive programme of incentives to encourage development of housing for all citizens. For example, construction has begun on the Waigani Hostel, new self-contained low-cost units from bedsits to 3-bedroom walk-ups. In Port Moresby work has begun on a 4- phase 1,000 unit project providing up to 4-bedroom units. NHC is in the first phase of an all-nation housing construction programme, including replacing destroyed housing in Rabaul, and it is putting together an aid-funded package of 1,000 low cost rural houses. It also has its own housing construction programmes in progress. In these programmes NHC provides the direction and expertise and private industry constructs the buildings. In all of its programmes it favours those contractors who have the largest PNG-sourced component of materials and labour.