The global housing crisis is acute in Beira, Mozambique. Climate-resilient, affordable houses are in short supply due to climate threats, informal incomes, lack of urban planning and limited mortgage support.

The Beira municipality, with support from the Netherlands, addresses this issue through the new Maraza Residential Zone. They aim to make 25,000 homes accessible using pioneering approaches. Partners for Water’s programme advisor, Jaap Kroon and project partner Marie-Odile Zanders, discuss the project’s approach and challenges.

The Mozambican city of Beira is partly below sea level and highly vulnerable to the increasing effects of climate change. In 2019 and 2021, the port city was struck by two cyclones that destroyed more than 70% of the buildings. With assistance from the Partners for Water programme and the Netherlands Embassy, the municipality and the ‘Municipal Recovery and Resilience Plan’ are rebuilding Beira towards a climate-resilient, flood proof city, based on the so called the Beira Masterplan 2035.  The new Maraza Residential Zone is an important part of this city-wide development plan.

Marie-Odile Zanders, Director of Property Partnerships & Development at Empowa, Maraza’s home loan provider, has been working closely on this project with a number of partners. Together with Jaap Kroon, Partners for Water’s programme advisor Mozambique, she elaborates on the project’s progress and obstacles.

Housing Crisis

“Like in the rest of Mozambique and wider Africa, affordable housing is scarce in Beira and houses that withstand climate hazards are even scarcer. Obtaining mortgages in Mozambique is challenging and those that are available have interest rates exceeding 20 percent”, says Kroon. Zanders adds: “Many Mozambicans rely on informal and unpredictable incomes. This makes them ineligible for home loans. Today, approximately, only 600 mortgages are in existence throughout all of Mozambique.”

“The alternative for buying a house is to construct one yourself. This takes a long time and often results in homes that are not resilient enough to withstand natural disasters. The housing that will be offered in Maraza will mean that most low to middle income Mozambicans can finally gain access to a climate-resilient home and not have to build themselves,” says Zanders.

25,000 Resilient, Affordable Green Homes

“The idea is to build 25,000 homes in an already allocated, low-lying area of 450 hectares. The land will be raised to prevent flooding and equipped with drainage, sewage and drinking water connections. The houses in the Maraza Residential Zone will be cyclone-resistant and affordable for the residents of Beira,” explains Kroon.

Local and International Partners

Maraza will be developed of by both local and international partners. One of them is the Sociedade de Desenvolvimento Urbano da Beira (SDUB), the organisation responsible for land development. The Partners for Water programme and the Netherlands Embassy in Mozambique have been funding SDUB since 2019. Since 2023, it’s received partial funding from Partners for Water and the Municipality of Beira. In addition to SDUB, the local developer Casa Real and the financial technology provider Empowa are partners in this innovative project.

Proof of Concept¹: Inhamizua District

As a proof of concept, a similar project has been developed by Casa Real and Empowa. They independently built 150 affordable homes on the outskirts of Beira. The homes are made accessible by reducing construction costs for a starter house from US$ 45.000 to just below US$ 10.000 and through a rent-to-buy scheme. Lower income residents can rent the home while saving money to buy it. This allows them to demonstrate, despite their informal incomes, that the scheme has proven to be successfull. Fifteen months into the scheme, one in three tenants has already paid at least 20% of their home’s value. Furthermore, financial flows are handled using blockchain technology. This reduces costs and risk by delivering timely, verified and indisputable data to investors and other relevant stakeholders.

It is critical that new approaches to affordable housing development are explored. Our group of committed and patient partners in Beira are demonstrating that another way of making Africa’s affordable housing market work is possible. Our approach is attuned to the needs of people who live and work informally, while being commercially viable, scaleable and replicable

Marie-Odile Zanders

Start-up challenges in Maraza Residential Zone

Close to 2.5 million euros have been invested in Maraza’s development to prepare 3.5 hectares for construction as a mini-pilot project. The sand has been raised, an access road constructed, drainage and wastewater collection systems installed and plots for apartment blocks of about 400 units are ready. The homes will be sold in a similar manner to the successful Inhamizua project. However, despite the accomplishments of the Inhamizua district, there are several challenges in securing the initial capital needed to build the first apartments.

The Inhamizua project has incurred interesting returns, yet it has been deemed too risky by various potential financiers’ due to Africa’s underdeveloped affordable housing markets, among other factors. “To reduce the risk, Partners for Water offers soft funding of around 20% of the required investment for the first phase, on the condition that another party provides the remainder,” says Kroon. The data and systems used in the Inhamizua project help in further de-risking investments into Maraza’s homes. Zanders adds: “We invite anyone interested in a different approach to affordable housing development to come and learn from us in Beira.”

Next Steps

“Everything and everyone is in place ready to build the houses: the developers, construction workers, materials, plots and the Beira municipality is firmly supporting the development of the Maraza Residential zone. So, once funding is secured, construction will start as soon as possible,” says Kroon.  And there is no doubt that the demand exists, as market research in Beira has already identified around 500 families interested and capable of renting or buying homes from the mini-pilot project.

Beira thrilogy

This article is the first of three publications highlighting Partners for Waters work in Beira ahead of the 50th anniversary of bilateral cooperation between The Netherlands and Mozambique.

[1] Impact assessment was undertaken by Mercy Corps Ventures (MCV) during 2023/2024. For more info: MCV’s  blog on “The Impact of Climate-Resilient Housing and How Web3 Technology can scale its Development”.

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