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Introduction to renting in Zimbabwe
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Introduction to renting in Zimbabwe

Thus far in most of our discourse on this blog, we have barely mentioned renting or discussed issues related to renting in Zimbabwe. We have instead chosen to focus on outright purchase and sale of properties in Zimbabwe. That is because almost everyone despite their financial position has the ultimate goal of wanting to own a house in Zimbabwe at some point. The truth though is that thanks to the economic situation in Zimbabwe and indeed anywhere else, a lot of people who live in urban Zimbabwe are renters and will remain so for a long time.

How many people rent versus own their houses in urban Zimbabwe?

To begin this series I think it is important that we look at what the statistics say when it comes to the number of those who own their houses versus those who rent. Late last year ZIMSTAT, the government agency that is tasked with providing essential statistics to this country promised that they would be carrying out a comprehensive housing tenure survey in 2022. They did a tentative survey back in 2017 although it is now a bit dated and was not very comprehensive it does offer some insight and will be the basis of our discussion in this article.

The statistics for house ownership are interesting and in my humble opinion skewed a bit by the fact that despite increasing and persistent rural-urban migration a big proportion of the population continues to live in rural Zimbabwe. In fact, even those who have lived in urban Zimbabwe, myself included, continue to have a rural presence of some sort. Tradition still dictates that one at least has a rural home of sorts. I do but it’s a house that I never live in most times of the year except in December when I go for Christmas with my family for a few days.

However, according to ZIMSTAT, that counts me as a homeowner. The result is that despite me renting most part of the year I am counted as a house owner. According to a housing survey done by ZIMSTAT back in 2017:

  • Owners/Purchasers accounted for about 67 per cent of the households, 17 per cent are lodgers, 9 per cent in tied accommodation, and 2 per cent are tenants. That seems rather different from what one would expect if they looked at house tenure arrangements in urban Zimbabwe.

  • Everything becomes clear though when you examine the data at the provincial level.

In all provinces owners/purchasers constituted the largest proportion except in Harare and Bulawayo where lodgers accounted for 46 and 38 per cent respectively. Honestly even this sounds rather low to me because the bulk of people I know are lodgers but they could be an explanation. You see, most house owners tend to share their abode with tenants. You rent the cottage while you live in the main house. Depending on the methodology ZIMSTAT used, the results can give the impression that house owners outstrip those renting.

  • Another thing to note is the survey was done on a provincial level. Harare and Bulawayo are mostly metropolitan (therefore urban areas) however they also incorporate peri-urban areas that would have affected the results e.g. Harare South is almost rural and has a lot of house owners. If the results respected city and town delimitations or were done on a district level you would observe lots of renting in urban districts versus rural districts.

  • This is later confirmed by data in the same ZIMSTAT survey which shows that in rural areas, owners/purchasers constituted the largest proportion (82 per cent) whilst in the urban areas, lodgers accounted for 45 per cent. Again I have cause to be sceptical about the lower percentage of urban renters but it gives you a picture of the disparities between urban and rural areas in terms of the proportion of the dwellers that rent versus those that are owners.

See you in the next instalment

Again, whether you believe in my sneaking suspicion that the number of renters is being grossly misstated or not, you cannot argue with the fact that a lot of people would rather rent  than own the houses they live in. Here at PropertyBook, we help those seeking to buy or rent a house to find their next home. That means a discussion on issues that affect those renting and renting out their properties is urgent and needed.

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