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Thursday Jul 30, 2009

Angola eases import rules for housing scheme

Angola is lifting customs duties on construction materials imported to build houses for the poor, the government announced Wednesday, one day after a housing protest in the capital Luanda.

Angola suffers a critical shortage of housing due to three decades of civil war which destroyed huge swathes of the country and saw millions seek refuge by cramming into Luanda, where many remain in slum conditions without basic sanitation.

A reliance on imported material like cement means construction projects are expensive and time consuming, and the focus has been on high end residential developments which yield the most profit.

The state news agency Angop said the cabinet decided to lift the duties on building supplies for housing schemes in a bid to prod the scheme forward.

Last year President Jose Eduardo dos Santos pledged to build one million homes by 2012, but many Angolans feel progress has been too slow.

On Tuesday around 200 people staged a protest outside parliament after their tin shacks were bulldozed by the local government, which wants to develop on the land.

Human rights organisations have described the forced evictions in the south of the capital as a "humanitarian catastrophe" but the local government has denied use of force and says the homes had been illegally constructed on unsuitable land.

Shortly after Tuesday's protesters were dispersed from parliament by armed police, lawmakers inside voted to improve dialogue around the so-called "urban requalification" process but warned people to respect the land laws.


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