- Published on Thursday, 07 February 2013 07:05
- Written by Culled From NDI-Liberia newsletter
In 2012, the National Democratic Institute (NDI-Liberia) launched Study Investigation Missions as tools for Liberian lawmakers to deepen knowledge on high priority issues of national interest, to analyze contexts while considering legislation, and to strengthen their oversight of the executive branch.
Such Missions investigate best practices and urgent needs in the field and make recommendations for policy- and law-making on selected issues.
NDI-Liberia's methodology is to pair international experts with local experts in supporting the National Legislature in these missions. Legislative personnel were involved to enhance their skills and media outreach to keep citizens informed about the work and results of the Mission.
In this way, the Legislature can strengthen its role, position and visibility. In addition to the Mission on Affordable and Adequate Housing, a Study Investigation Mission has been launched on Extractive Industries
“The work of the Mission has convinced me and the other members that there is no option but to lobby and advocate for affordable housing”. These were the words of Senator Peter Coleman during NDI's Policy Seminar on Affordable and Adequate Housing. The seminar took place on 16 January 2012 in Monrovia to accommodate a discussion between lawmakers and housing-experts on the draft report of the earlier Study Investigation Mission on Affordable and Adequate Housing. That Mission was composed of six lawmakers and was assisted by NDI and two experts. It consulted a number of stakeholders and made fact-finding visits upcountry to collect information about the housing conditions suffered by a majority of Liberia's population. The draft Mission Report also makes recommendations for law- and policymaking.
During the policy seminar, the Managing Director of the National Housing Authority, Samuel Thompson, highlighted the urgency of a new and assertive housing policy. He underlined the basic human right of every Liberian to have a decent house. But he also made it very clear that building houses for low- and middle income households contributes to a stable future, improves security in Liberia, and is a major engine for economic growth and job creation.
With legislative, executive branch and regional experts, the seminar turned out to be a very interactive in-depth meeting. The seminar facilitator Ohene Sarfoh, the mission's international housing policy expert from Ghana, took the participants on a journey through three hours of recommendations -- challenging them to express their views and share their knowledge, while at the same time concentrating on a roadmap for legislative follow-up.
Some participants expressed their wonderment, while others expressed anger, that until now both society and politics have been so silent about the very poor housing conditions faced by millions of Liberians. Everyone lauded the initiative of the Legislature's Study.
Investigation Mission in breaking this silence
The seminar was also attended by civil society activists and representatives of city government and international donors.
The recommendations in the draft report for law- and policymaking were fully supported by the participants. Most underlined the need for concrete steps to be taken. Some of the suggestions heard called for the introduction of bills by lawmakers, such as one to regulate rental rates. Others emphasized the need for prioritization of housing in the national budget and the convening of a national housing policy conference by the President of the Republic.
Mission member Representative Munah Pelham advocated for enhanced oversight by the Legislature. Her colleague Representative Larry Younquoi, after hearing from the Mission's members, stressed the responsibility of legislators to sponsor bills that would contribute to affordable and adequate housing. Senator John Ballout called upon government to collaborate with private investors and to accommodate housing investments in the National Budget.
In his closing remarks, Senator Coleman characterized the Mission and the seminar as first steps. Many more steps have to follow. “The Legislature, the Executive, Civil Society Organizations and the media should all play a pivotal role in setting the stage for a comprehensive, adequate and inclusive national policy on housing”, he said.
After finalization of the Mission Report, based on deliberations at the seminar, members of the Mission will take ownership of drafting the most urgent bills proposed in the report. The Study Investigation Mission and the Policy Seminar were made possible by NDI-Liberia's legislative strengthening grant from USAID
Bad Governance -- Bad Housing
“Presently, not all stakeholders are involved in housing. The state is not involved adequately as a facilitator, leaving the market (or whatever remains of it) to stimulate production and allocate outputs, albeit inequitably and unsustainably. The absence of a spatial development framework and a structured housing system is opening the land market to excessive speculation, poor use and high levels of invasion. Furthermore, the lack of regulations in the rental housing sector is leaving room for abuse and conflicts. The cities and counties are also not benefitting from property taxes to recover any investments done for the provision of (limited) municipal services. Lastly, civil society organizations and policy research institutions do not engage the state and other strategic actors in debates on affordable and adequate housing.”