July 31, 2009 / 4:46 PM / 9 years ago

Angola says Luanda's housing shortage is critical

* Luanda’s housing shortage is critical

* Poses a risk to security of oil-producing nation

By Henrique Almeida

LUANDA, July 31 (Reuters) - Angola’s capital Luanda, built to house 300,000 people, is having to cope with a population of up to eight million, creating a housing shortage crisis, the deputy governor of the city said on Friday.

Earlier this year, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said poverty and a housing shortage in Angola could lead to social unrest in the oil-producing nation. Angola rivals Nigeria as Africa’s biggest oil producer.

Most Luandanese live in makeshift huts without running water or electricity.

"Luanda was built for 300,000 inhabitants but it is home to 7 or 8 million people today," Bento Soito told journalists.

Asked if the situation was critical, he said: "It’s critical but we are working on it."

The Angolan government forcibly evicted an estimated 15,000 people from illegal settlements on the outskirts of Luanda in the last week to make way for new real estate projects, according to S.O.S. Habitat, a non-governmental organisation.

The move prompted hundreds to march to the city centre to protest.

Most of the slum dwellers arrived in Luanda during Angola’s 27-year civil war that ended in 2002. Others took advantage of recently rebuilt roads and bridges to escape poverty in rural areas in search of better opportunities in the city.

"Some of these people came from areas that still have land mines and there is no incentive for them to return," said Soito. "That is why the exodus of the population to Luanda will continue."

The president has pledged to build one million new homes for the poor in the next four years. However, S.O.S Habitat estimates that five million people, in Luanda alone, are in need of proper housing.

Soito said that while the Angolan government would never be able to provide homes for the millions of slum dwellers in Luanda, it would continue to work on the problem.

"What I can say is that we have built around 20,000 new homes that have already been handed out freely to the population," said Soito.

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