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About Zimbabwe

Chako Ndechako Housing Cooperative - Chitungwiza

Chako Ndechako Housing Cooperative – Chitungwiza


Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980 and inherited a segregated and overcrowded housing stock. The land distribution between the white and black populations was unequal in terms of quality and area. Race-based policies deprived blacks of the right to home ownership. The new government’s main task was to unify the segregated cities and provide accommodation for all urban dwellers. In response, the government repealed some of the race-based policies, including restrictions to homeownership for black citizens. 

In 1983, the Transitional National Development Plan was adopted, which recognized housing as a basic need essential to people’s well-being and the country’s productivity. The plan aimed to provide decent, affordable housing with a focus on low-income earners. Self-help was central to the poverty alleviation policies, with housing cooperatives identified as part of the strategy. However, the policy’s implementation did not yield the expected results, and housing cooperatives did not receive adequate support. 

Housing cooperatives emerged in Zimbabwe in the late 1980s. Two types of housing cooperatives – work-based and community-based – were promoted and are still in existence. Work-based housing cooperatives are formed by a group of workers from a single employer, with employees as members. Community-based housing cooperatives are formed by people from the same geographic location. 

One of the first housing cooperatives, the Cotton Printers Housing Cooperative, was formed in 1984 as a work-based housing cooperative in Bulawayo, the second-largest city in Zimbabwe. Another significant housing cooperative, Kugarika Kushinga Housing Cooperative (KKHC), was founded in 1986 and is now a community-based cooperative with 2,000 members. Both cooperatives faced difficulties in accessing and registering land.

Securing financing for cooperative housing development was a significant challenge. Only a few housing coops were able to obtain loans, which meant that development could not begin until enough funds were raised through member contributions. However, the contributions were quite small, so it took a long time to gather sufficient money for construction to commence. This discouraged many people. Housing cooperatives that were affiliated with employers fared better because they received administrative and financial assistance from them, and sometimes the employers also acted as loan guarantors. This enabled the members to make higher contributions.

In 1987, the Zimbabwe National Workshop on Construction and Housing Cooperatives brought together international and African participants to exchange ideas on supporting low-income individuals through housing cooperatives. This gathering led to the establishment of Housing People of Zimbabwe (HPZ) in 1992. HPZ received strong support from two international organizations: Rooftops Canada Foundation, the initial international partner, and the Swedish Cooperative Center (now called We Effect) also assisted. These two organizations supported HPZ until it ceased its operations in 2010.

HPZ represented a significant advancement in the development of housing cooperatives in Zimbabwe. As a non-governmental organization registered under the Social Welfare Act, HPZ was dedicated to fostering and sustaining a vibrant and sustainable housing cooperative movement in Zimbabwe by offering technical services in all aspects of coop development to housing cooperatives. HPZ collaborated with various organizations to enhance living conditions for low-income earners for nearly two decades. However, the economic downturn and instability from 1998 to 2009, coupled with the leadership’s inability to readjust its activities, and the withdrawal of international financial and technical support, led to HPZ closing down in 2010. HPZ and its international partners agreed that the movement would be supported directly through the apex organization.

SCC and HPZ facilitated the establishment of the Zimbabwe National Association of Housing Cooperatives (ZINAHCO). Founded in 1993 and registered in 2001 as an apex organization, ZINAHCO’s role was to aid housing cooperatives in becoming registered and in acquiring land and building materials.

Several government-level initiatives were implemented to support housing development. The Land Acquisition Act, adopted in 1992, enabled the government to acquire farmlands for urban and peri-urban expansion, which were then transferred to local authorities for surveying and titling. The National Housing Fund introduced the Save for Your Home Scheme, offering loans for low-income housing. However, initiatives aimed at low-income households faced challenges such as insufficient financial resources, lack of political will from local authorities, and corruption, leading to limited success in addressing housing needs amidst rapid urbanization.

Between the 1980s and mid-1990s, international development assistance was channelled to the government and then disbursed to local authorities for housing development, including support for housing cooperatives, along with government loans. For instance, the USAID Housing Guarantee program facilitated mortgages for early housing cooperatives through building societies.

The country experienced a significant economic downturn between 1998 and 2008, attributed to hyperinflation, an overvalued exchange rate, and a shortage of foreign currency. This downturn hampered the government’s ability to drive economic progress. Zimbabwe’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth in 2003 further limited access to international assistance, directly impacting housing development. During the early 1990s, the cost of building a four-room house increased from Z$30,000 to Z$100,000 by 1999. This period also proved challenging for work-based housing cooperatives, with many members defaulting on their obligations due to job cuts.

During this time, most coops relied on their own funds to purchase building materials, but these funds often lost value due to hyperinflation. Although some coops were allocated undeveloped land, progress was minimal. Only a few coops were constructed using donor funds. A Trust Fund, established in the mid-1990s by HPZ to help housing coops save at the best possible interest rate, was depleted during the economic collapse and has not been reinstated since the introduction of the USD as the currency.

Despite the challenges, a report from the Harare City Council on the progress of infrastructure and housing development from 1998 to 2008 indicated that housing cooperatives have proven to be the most effective mechanisms for delivering housing to low-income families.


The current housing backlog in Zimbabwe is estimated to be at 2 million units, including both new units and existing units in need of refurbishment. Approximately one-fifth of the population is either homeless or lives in poor, overcrowded housing without basic infrastructure. This situation is a result of poverty, a high rate of urbanization, and campaigns to demolish informal settlements. The country’s independence and the cancellation of racial policies led to a high rate of rural people migrating to urban areas in search of better living conditions, and this urbanization trend is ongoing. As of March 2013, the Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities reported that there were approximately 1.2 million people on the government’s national housing list, and the actual figure is likely higher since most local authorities do not compile the data.

Urbanization also brought about an increase in informal settlements. In 2004, 68% of Zimbabweans were living below the poverty line, and the unemployment rate stood at 80% in 2005. As a result, people were unable to afford their own homes and resorted to establishing informal settlements. However, the housing situation was further exacerbated by the forced eviction campaign in 2005, known as Operation Murambatsvina or Operation Restore Order, which resulted in 700,000 people being left homeless after numerous informal settlements were dismantled. This operation led to significant rent increases, further impacting low-income families. Additionally, many families lost their incomes from home-based small businesses, room rentals, and informal markets.

Currently, housing cooperatives face several challenges, including:
1. Access to sufficient, affordable land in good locations
2. Access to affordable finance that takes into account the financial capacity of the people and the cooperatives
3. Access to affordable building materials.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is also impacting housing cooperatives in Zimbabwe, with a 14.3% HIV positive rate in the country. The cooperative housing movement has been dedicated to addressing the difficulties created by the pandemic, creating a supportive environment for people with HIV/AIDS by developing coping skills, providing support and information, and reducing stigma.

In 2012, a National Housing Policy was adopted following an intensive consultative process. The policy is based on three elements: promoting housing development strategies to assist the poor, using a participatory approach, and mobilizing the beneficiaries’ own resources.

The policy expects all housing stakeholders to contribute, with an emphasis on community-based organizations, with housing cooperatives taking the lead role. It defines the role of each player, including the State and local authorities, and establishes strategies to achieve the set goals. The Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities has the overall authority and is responsible for facilitating the execution of other players’ roles.

ZINAHCO’s submissions into the housing policy reviews resulted in explicit recognition of housing co-ops as key institutions and players in the housing sector in Zimbabwe. The policy commits the whole of Section 5:5 to articulating the role played by Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in the provision of low-income housing. It has put clear positive and critical strategies in place for the operations and integration of CBOs in housing development issues in the nation. Some of the key policy areas cited to be critical for CBO integration include:

  • Land allocation and security of tenure;
  • Targeted subsidies;
  • A ‘no eviction without alternative’ policy framework;
  • Broadening access to credit facilities e.g. innovative products by formal sources of housing finance;
  • Implementation of flexible policies e.g. incremental development;
  • Proper regulation of the CBO sector; and
  • National budgetary allocations for CBOs.

Local Authorities developed guidelines in collaboration with ZINAHCO to clarify and strengthen the relationship between local councils and housing cooperatives. The aim was to reduce political influence and abuse. These guidelines are designed to build trust and establish productive working parameters. Partners are encouraged to use these guidelines to negotiate the terms of their partnership agreement in housing delivery, which should be included in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). The terms will cover various aspects including the price of land or stands, payment plan, roles and obligations of parties, development conditions, allocation procedure, dispute resolution, and timeframe. An agreement based on these guidelines was been reached between ZINAHCO and the local authorities.

It is difficult for many people to afford their own homes due to the high cost of mortgages and interest rates. In Zimbabwe, there has been a noticeable shift in the residential market towards rentals rather than homeownership, driven by economic challenges. The latest Zimstat report indicates that 58.5% of households in Zimbabwe are owner-occupied, with a higher proportion of owner-occupied housing in rural areas compared to urban areas. Urban areas show a higher proportion of lodger-occupied housing, with ownership tenure at 32.8%. Notably, the data indicates that the country’s two largest cities have a higher number of lodgers than homeowners.

Furthermore, the housing market in Zimbabwe faces several challenges due to the high cost of building materials and mortgages, along with low average earnings of approximately $6,100 USD per year. This has led to a decrease in the use of mortgages and an increase in renting rather than attempting to own a property. As a result, property developers have recognized the potential for income in rental properties and have increased their investment in the rental market.

Despite government initiatives like the national housing scheme, the housing backlog remains a significant challenge. The scheme aims to deliver 220,000 housing units by 2025, but limited information about its progress is available.

Mushawedu Housing Cooperative, (cooperative composed of people living with disabilities) - Chitungwiza

Mushawedu Housing Cooperative, (cooperative composed of people living with disabilities) – Chitungwiza


Key characteristics of the Zimbabwean housing cooperatives affiliated to ZINAHCO are:

  • Mostly urban and peri-urban;
  • 2 types: work-based housing cooperatives and community-based housing cooperatives;
  • The average size of a cooperative is around 50 members, meaning 50 families as only one person per family can be a member of a cooperative. However, the membership ranges from 10 members to 407 members;
  • Development is typically done incrementally, i.e. the construction is done in stages – land, possibly infrastructure, and a core house or room by room – according to the money available and the development of the infrastructure;
  • Cooperatives purchase the land and the building materials and, build the houses for its members. Actual construction of the houses is done in different ways, usually some combination of self-help and small builders, and in some cases, larger builders may take on some or the entire project;
  • Cooperatives can access land that is already serviced with title deeds from the local authorities or can do the servicing and the housing development at the same time when cooperatives access un-serviced stands. Servicing the land involves engineering designs, roads and water systems. This means that housing co-ops must allocate financial resources that could otherwise be used to build more houses. This is difficult for housing co-ops and they do not receive much help from the local authorities;
  • The cooperative jointly owns houses until they are transferred to the individual members;
  • Members “rent” the houses until all houses are built for all members;
  • The rules determining how the allocation of the houses will be made must be agreed upon before the beginning of the project to avoid favouritism;
  • The titles are transferred to the individual members only when the entire project is completed and all loans are paid;
  • Beneficiaries (members) should be registered on the Council’s housing waiting list;
  • Once the construction is completed and every member has been housed as guided by the by-laws, the cooperative’s first mandate is complete. The cooperative may then dissolve or the members re-visit the by-laws to determine how best they can continue to use the co-op to their benefit, mostly in income generation ventures or community service provision;
  • Co-ops may have other income-generating activities, for example, Kugarika Kushinga Housing cooperative operates buses;
  • Pre-registration training is done by the Registrar of Cooperatives. ZINAHCO does comprehensive coop training, responding to the members’ needs.


Housing cooperatives are financed through contributions from members, income generated from other activities, and financial assistance from partners.

The monthly contributions from members are decided through a democratic process, based on their available income. Once the contribution amount is determined, the cooperative is organized in the most efficient way possible given the available financial resources. If a member resigns from the cooperative, their contribution is reimbursed.

Housing cooperatives also utilize income from other activities to invest in housing. Many low-income earners may not have formal employment, so cooperatives engage in income-generating projects (IGPs) to finance their development. ZINAHCO assists in training for IGPs, particularly those related to construction. This includes the manufacturing of building materials to reduce project costs.

ZINAHCO has initiated a unique housing program with significant funding from the Community Led Infrastructure Finance Facility (CLIFF) through Homeless International, a UK-based organization. ZINAHCO provides loans to housing cooperatives to gradually build core houses for each of their members. Every cooperative member contributes to making the monthly payments back to ZINAHCO, regardless of whether they have received their house. The interest rate charged to the cooperatives is very affordable compared to other options available in Zimbabwe. With continued success, ZINAHCO will be able to extend the loans to more and more projects. Two important features of this program are: the loans are made to the housing cooperatives, not to individual members, and every member must contribute to the loan repayment, even if their own houses are not yet built. Co-op members who occupy completed core houses pay a higher monthly rate than those still waiting.

ZINAHCO provides training in loan management and construction to the cooperatives, developing their capacity and ensuring the sustainability of the program.

Legal framework

The legal instruments for the co-operative housing sector in Zimbabwe are:

  • Cooperative Societies Act, Chapter 24:05: set out the rules and regulations on forming and operating housing cooperatives;
  • By-laws: rules and regulations that guide the conduct of the coop members;
  • Revised Cooperative Development Policy of 2005: to read in conjunction with the Act;
  • Land Developers Bill: not yet adopted, but when it is, it will help in providing guidelines on how to develop the land;
  • Labor Relations Act (1985): helps in the regulation of the secretariat’s conduct;
  • Housing Policy: provides legal framework and strategies for cooperatives to work together.
Batonga Housing Cooperative - Kariba

Batonga Housing Cooperative – Kariba

The Cooperative Housing Movement

The Zimbabwe National Association of Housing Cooperatives (ZINAHCO) is the primary organization representing housing cooperatives in the country. It was established in 1993 and officially registered as a non-profit Community-Based Organisation (CBO) in 2001 under the Cooperative Societies Act 24:05. ZINAHCO currently consists of 190 primary housing cooperatives, representing around 10,000 individual members and 5 District Unions. Additionally, 3 new District unions are in the process of being formed.

ZINAHCO is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of 11 members, who are elected regionally, and a Supervisory Board. The organization has 11 permanent employees and two trainee students on attachment.

The ambition of ZINAHCO is “to become a center of excellence in the provision of cooperative housing development services locally, regionally, and internationally.” Their vision is to create societies where low-income individuals have access to adequate housing. This vision translates into a mission to advocate for and provide adequate cooperative housing solutions to low-income individuals within and outside Zimbabwe.

The services offered by ZINAHCO include lobbying and advocacy, training, housing finance facilities, and construction management services. From 2010 to 2012, ZINAHCO members completed 440 housing units, with an additional 499 under construction. The introduction of the CLIFF Fund is expected to significantly increase the production of cooperative housing units by ZINAHCO affiliates.

ZINAHCO is delivering an HIV/AIDS community program to help housing cooperatives reduce the impact of the disease in their community. This is done through support groups established in District Unions.

ZINAHCO has collaborated with Rooftops Canada – Abri International, Homeless International (UK), SIDA, and We Effect.

For more information, visit:

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