Jan 7 , 2022

District offices across the city have yet to begin providing services in issuing building permits, despite the Addis Abeba City Administration cabinet lifting an earlier moratorium.

Officials of districts say they await instructions from the Addis Abeba Land Development & Management Bureau to resume services, although the city administration had announced the resumption of land-related services under the Addis Abeba Construction Permit & Control Authority a month ago.

“The district office has not received any letter or circular instructing us to resume the service,” Serkalem Assefa, head of the Yeka District Land Management Office, told Fortune.

Jemal Aliye, head of the Addis Abeba Land Development & Management Bureau, confirmed that instructions had not been communicated to district offices. However, discussions with the Mayor's office are ongoing, he disclosed.

"The service will commence soon," said Jemal. "But it's hard to tell when it'll be."

City officials had blamed extensive illegal activities in the construction industry when they suspended all land-related services six months ago. They rescinded the order in December 2021 through a letter addressed to the Construction Permit & Control Authority, authorising it to begin land-related services, including the issuance of new building permits. The Authority has the mandate to issue and renew building permits in the capital. It delegates wereda offices to grant construction permits for buildings up to two-storeys high, while districts are responsible for up to 10 storeys.

The Authority under Setotaw Akale handles permits for buildings with more floors. He was head of the Addis Abeba Transport Bureau before his current appointment serving in the cabinet of Adanech Abiebie. A civil engineer with a law degree, Setotaw has served as a deputy manager of the Dessie town administration, 400Km north of Addis Abeba.

The construction boom in the city over the last decade and a half has led to a rapid increase in the number of permits issued by city officials. About 569 construction permits were issued in Addis Abeba two years ago. Over the nine months of last year, 6,800 new permits were issued, averaging 25 a day. The City Administration also renewed 1,236 permits during the same period.

Project owners must prove lease-hold rights over the plots on which the planned construction. The verification service, which land management offices provided at the district level, has yet to commence following the suspension enforced six months ago.

Yoseph Burka is among those affected by the suspension. He had been supervising the construction of a four-story building on a plot of land his parents hold around Megenagna in Yeka District. Construction was stalled in August after he could not renew the building permit due to expire in September.

He waited for more than two-and-a-half years to get a loan from a bank but was made to stop construction seven months into launching the project. Yoseph saw a considerable rise in the cost of building materials from concrete to glass and aluminium frames during the lull.

“I lost due to the price hikes in the last four months," Yoseph told Fortune.

Haben Abraha, a construction expert with over a decade of experience, has also witnessed the impact of the suspension of land-related services. It exposed project owners and contractors to cost run over, affecting the progress of construction projects.

The price of construction materials such as rebar and finishing materials have escalated since September last year. The rapid depreciation of the Birr has also fuelled the crisis. A dollar was exchanged to over 50 Br last week, a trend alarming to businesses across the board.

“I'm in a desperate situation,” Yoseph said. “I didn’t anticipate this when starting construction.”

PUBLISHED ON Jan 07,2022 [ VOL 22 , NO 1132]

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