Homeward Bound to Addis

Jan 27 , 2024
By Kidist Yidnekachew

I was met with a profound peace of mind ever since I relocated my residence to the outskirts of Addis Abeba a fortnight ago. With high ceilings and a better view, the place feels more spacious compared to the previous one, although we have yet to fully settle, with a quarter of our belongings still packed in boxes scattered across the living room.

The move was prompted by yet another escalating rental price. Before settling on this particular house, I diligently explored numerous properties all over the city, hoping to save money while maintaining a close distance to the city centre. Oh! the countless conversations with real estate brokers. I nearly became a broker myself being well-acquainted with asking prices.

On a relentless search for a proper house, I found out that the newly developed neighbourhoods offering relatively affordable options lacked basic infrastructure. It did not make sense to save a few thousand birrs only to spend it on transportation and face the inevitable price hike after a while. At least a familiar surrounding would offer a stable and nurturing environment for our children.

Unfortunately, it became apparent that the perpetual rental fee adjustment was unavoidable no matter where we relocated. The issue is ubiquitous for residents of Addis Abeba who waltz through life in a rental house where nearly half of their salary goes to paying rent. With a major portion of hard-earned payments tied up in housing, affording basic expenses has become a luxury for most.

While homeowners may consider rental fees as a lucrative source of income, for us tenants, the day we have to pay rent is far from a joyful occasion. Meeting basic needs, sending children to school and socialising, all with a stagnant wage has become a difficult task even for the "middle-income class".

I realised that saving money was a futile effort unless we were willing to move to a smaller square area. It is frustrating.

While I am an advocate for frugality and the discipline of saving, my pragmatist husband argues that the inflationary rate is a constant companion, urging us to focus on making more income rather than chasing the illusion of reduced expenses. He firmly stood the ground that residing in a smaller house can inadvertently limit our aspirations. On the contrary, living in a larger house would provide an opportunity to push ourselves to find innovative ways of living.

Amidst this tug-of-war, our recent move has sparked a commitment to strive for homeownership. The key is making more money. But aspiring homeowners such as ourselves face escalating building material costs, delayed access to financing, and a scarcity of land. These have created a tremendous barrier for even the middle-income class to realise the ambition of owning a property.

Although local officials implemented a law preventing homeowners from raising prices for the previous year, this approach proved to be a band-aid on an open wound, failing to address the root causes. It would be helpful if the government prioritises initiatives that promote affordable housing and empower the private sector.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 27,2024 [ VOL 24 , NO 1239]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (kaymina21@gmail.com)

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