Improving Housing in Liberia

Housing in LiberiaFinding suitable housing in Liberia presents a significant struggle for much of the population. In 2020, according to World Bank, 64% of the country’s total urban population was living without access to viable housing or services required for proper living. As a result, many institutions, both governmental or nonprofit, have dedicated efforts to improving the housing situation in Liberia.

The Issues at Hand

Liberia’s history has been tumultuous, with a series of civil wars throughout the 1990s and early 2000s that left the country economically devastated. Around 50.9% of the total population in Liberia lived under the poverty line as of 2016, with many urban areas suffering from overcrowding. This problem has continuously affected the state of housing in Liberia for years.

Inadequate infrastructure and a lack of proper services play a big part in exacerbating many of the existing issues. A severe lack of sanitation and water services has contributed to several health and safety issues over the years. Many houses don’t have proper access to water or sewage, and those that do are damaged or lack maintenance. The Ebola crisis in 2014 spread rapidly through major urban areas such as Monrovia and proved a major health risk. COVID-19 followed this in 2020, where 70.6% of COVID-19 cases in Liberia were in Montserrado County as of August that year.

The common building materials also contribute to poor conditions. Some of the common resources in extensive use throughout urban areas for housing are concrete, cement and zinc for roofing. All of these are time-consuming to make, contribute to pollution levels and in the case of zinc, can heat up the inner spaces of houses. Many of these housing materials are also put together in a ramshackle way, leaving many houses in danger of damage.

Making the Housing Sector Better

Despite the many issues Liberia faces, there are entities willing to make efforts to improve the housing situation in Liberia for all. The Liberia National Housing Authority (NHA) is one of the leading forces pushing for progress in this regard. The NHA has signed memorandums with groups like Habitat for Humanity International to improve housing policies and build more homes to alleviate overcrowding. The NHA reached another recent agreement to construct 5,000 housing units in 2019 to alleviate the problem.

Other groups are investing in building up the housing market, particularly through improving Liberia’s infrastructure. UNICEF, with its focus on improving the lives and rights of children, works to provide sanitation for the country. The organization does this by strengthening WASH institutions, supporting surveillance of water quality and borehole maintenance. USAID also works to improve water sanitation, taking such actions as fixing and expanding three water treatment plants across Liberia.

U.N. Habitat has pushed for the use of better building materials to construct housing in Liberia. One primary focus is on pushing for the use of local building materials, including using more natural, mud-based resources as building materials and developing a self-sustaining industry for local materials. An emphasis on Liberia’s National Urban Policy (NUP) goals also points to ongoing research into providing affordable local building materials.

A Future of Improved Living

Significant improvements in housing conditions in Liberia are still a long-term endeavor, with several issues to be addressed along the way. Nonetheless, the collaborative efforts of multiple organizations are gradually propelling Liberia toward progress. Through continued dedication and concerted actions, the housing situation in Liberia can be steadily enhanced, ultimately positively impacting the lives of numerous individuals for years to come.

– Kenneth Berends
Photo: Flickr