Tag: renting

Senegal tenants celebrate mandated rent cuts

A new law mandating across-the-board rent reductions in Senegal is a double-blessing for real estate agent Abdul Aziz Sylla. Along with paying 14% less each month for his family’s three-bedroom Dakar apartment, the 36-year-old has been busy brokering deals on behalf of clients flush with newfound purchasing power – and cashing in on a flurry of commissions.

“Everyone is happy about this,” Sylla said this week while standing outside his subdivided villa in Dakar’s Liberte 6 neighborhood, where he also markets property. “Apartments that were just a little bit too expensive, people can suddenly afford them.”

Two years after successfully running on a campaign to lower living costs, President Macky Sall has received wide praise for the law from residents frustrated with the city’s pricey housing stock.

Critics of the rent reduction, however, note that it can distort the market, potentially discouraging the construction of new property or the leasing of existing housing. There are several new housing units currently being constructed, indicating that builders have not yet been discouraged by the reduction, which has been debated for years.

Enforcement will be tricky, and could determine whether the measure becomes a model for other regional governments, said Robert Tashima, Africa regional editor for Oxford Business Group.

“It goes without saying that the key to this legislation is enforcement, which has long been an Achilles’ heel for other rent control and tenancy rights ordinances elsewhere in Africa,” Tashima said.

Landlords will be able to increase rents once current leaseholders leave. Also a black market could emerge where sub-letters pay higher rents.

(Pic: Flickr / hownowdesign)
(Pic: Flickr / hownowdesign)

While rents have climbed throughout West Africa over the past 20 years, Dakar’s increase has been especially dramatic as Senegal cemented its reputation as the most stable country in an unstable region, attracting organisations seeking to move their regional staff from bases in politically turbulent Côte d’Ivoire.

High-end buyers from countries like Nigeria have also increasingly seen Dakar, located on a peninsula that is Africa’s westernmost point, as “a reliable market” for second homes, Tashima said.

Today, rental housing in Dakar’s downtown Plateau district can be double that found in the central business district of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial capital, and often rivals prices seen in large European cities, he said.

Benefits for low-income renters
The situation got so bad that in 2010 Senegal’s National Assembly launched an investigation. The new law, enacted last month, is scaled to benefit low-income renters most: Those paying less than 150 000 West African francs (roughly $310) in rent each month receive reductions of 29%. For apartments with rents between 150 000 and 500 000 francs, the reduction is 14%, and for units priced at more than 500 000 francs the reduction is 4%.

Just over half of Dakar’s roughly 1-million residents are renters, according to Senegal’s national statistics agency. The law does not apply to business property.

Dakar resident Cherif Gassama said the move is politically shrewd, as living costs are a top concern for Senegalese. After getting married last June, the 32-year-old spent six months scouring the city for a new apartment, finally hitting on a fourth-floor walk-up priced three times higher than the unit he leased when he moved to Dakar a decade ago.

Under the new law, his monthly rent decreased from around $300 to about $255, freeing up money he expects to spend on gasoline and staple foods like rice.

“To be frank, this is the first thing that Macky Sall has done to help us,” said Gassama, who described himself as a long-time Sall supporter.

His wife, Rokhaya Diagne, agreed. “When he was first elected two years ago, he was not so focused on fixing things,” she said of Sall. “He was more focused on corruption cases from the past. Now that he’s actually trying to fix things people are changing their minds about him, for the better.”

But like other Dakar residents, she urged Sall to consider similar measures to lower food and energy costs. “He can’t just do this. He needs to do more. This is just a first step for him,” she said.

Meanwhile, it is unclear whether the rent law will benefit everyone that it’s supposed to. Landlords who refuse to comply face up to six months in prison and fines of up to $3 100, but Tashima with Oxford Business Group said the government needs to ensure there are “sufficient resources to oversee the rental market and adjudicate disputes.”

Some landlords have openly said they will defy the law, among them Diarra Sarr, who manages property in the HLM neighborhood.

“I can’t apply this measure. The state doesn’t know all the work we’ve done to construct our houses,” he said. “The government cannot impose these lower rents on us. If they want to lower rent, they need to construct social housing for the population.” – Sapa-AP

Pay, pay and pay some more: Renting in Dar es Salaam

I was born and raised in Dar es Salaam. We locals call our city Bongo – a Swahili slang for brain,  and you need a sharp one to survive here.

My mother saved her civil servant salary for about three years to build the house I grew up in. For most of my life, I’ve lived with her in Changanyikeni, a peaceful suburb where everyone minds their own business. Apart from a lack of water in the suburb – we had to fetch some from the university block – Changanyikeni was a pleasant place to call home.

But after years of comfort, I felt like I needed a place of my own. I had spent three months in South Africa  living by myself. During that time, independence grew on me – there was no one to answer to about my whereabouts or why I was out late or didn’t want to eat dinner.

And so, at the age of 28, I decided to move out and find a place to rent in Dar es Salaam.

I gravitated towards the suburbs of Sinza, Mwenge, Kinondoni and Kijitonyama, which are coveted among young Tanzanians living on their own. They are close to the city centre and offer plenty of entertainment in the form of  bars, night clubs and shopping malls.

(Pic: Flickr / hownowdesign)
(Pic: Flickr / hownowdesign)

My first step was to find the right connections. The renting business in Dar is not exactly conventional. It’s dominated by middle men who connect potential tenants with landlords. You’ll find them every morning lurking around the suburbs, waiting for house-seekers to arrive so they can start pitching.

Most of them are good liars. They will wax lyrical about the perfect house, convince you to view it, and when you do, you’ll realise what an exaggeration “in good condition” and “lovely views” can be. And for every house you walk into, you’ll need to dish out at least $7 to the middle man as a “showing fee”.

I was first taken to Sinza, a middle class suburb full of bachelors and newlyweds who fork out a hefty USD 200 for a 2-bedroom house and at least USD 50 more for utilities. It is a nice suburb but I did not see myself living there. There is a bar, grocery store or night club after every two houses; it’s a party from Monday to Monday. Young people prefer Sinza since they do not have to drive out to have a drink; it can be found just next door.

My next option was Kinondoni but one of the middlemen told me to be very careful since all sorts of dark deals went down here. Drug dealers and prostitutes operate in this area, and the rent prices also put me off: USD 250 to USD 300.

A friend of mind suggested I try the suburb where he lived – Mbagala. Rental prices are very cheap here. For 70 USD a month, a fully fenced housed could be yours to live in.

He invited me to stay over at his place to get a feel of the suburb. The next morning I saw commotion at the bus stand near his house. People were fighting to board the bus to get to work in time. Some were even climbing in through the windows. One man complained he’d never occupied a seat on the bus for the past three months since it’s always overcrowded as people fight to get to work on time. With that, I immediately crossed Mbagala off my list.

After months of hunting for a place of my own, I realised that every suburb has its own drama. I ended up getting a one bedroom house in Kinondoni, away from the shady streets, for USD 150 per month.

I was relieved that my months of hustling were over – but I was also broke. Landlords in Dar es Salaam don’t accept one month’s rent. You need to pay six to twelve months’ rent  upfront. If the house you’re renting has damages, the landlord will ask you to organise and pay for the repairs. The money will be deducted from the next month’s rent – or so they say.

I won’t be moving again anytime soon. Independence certainly comes at a cost  but I didn’t expect it would involve this many people or so many dollars.

Erick Mchome is a former features writer for The Citizen newspaper in Tanzania. He is the 2011 David Astor Award Winner and worked at the Mail & Guardian between September and December 2011.