About 10 years ago, when we lived in Port Moresby, we (me and my partner in crime) got evicted three times because we had difficulty paying rent every month.
It was a real struggle.
In Port Moresby, rentals have always been high. Those who have been able to survive either had company accommodation, had a partner who had housing, lived with their parents or lived in a settlement.
If you focus on a building a career, you tend to sacrifice accommodation. We did that. We focused on building careers. I guess the rewards came later. But at the time, it was the daily grind that looked like it was going to kill us.
Rentals have always been expensive in Port Moresby. Regardless of which decade you lived in the Big City, rent per week, for the average professional represents about half their fortnightly salary.
Public servants, in my view suffer the most. Government doesn’t provide accommodation like it used to in the 70s and 80s. Depending on where you work in the private sector, you might get a housing subsidy or up to 70 percent of your housing paid for by the company you work for.
For most people, housing costs come out of your own pocket.
For us, rentals per week were the equivalent of half our fortnightly salaries. We chose, to send our kids to good schools. It cost us more. That meant sacrificing a bit here and there.
At the time, we paid between K500 and K800 a week… between K1000 and K1600 per month. We were lucky to find small two bedroom units. House hunting wasn’t always easy. It was almost always depressing.
At one stage, a real estate agent, lied to us about a house at Tokarara. My family packed our cargo in a truck and went to the location while I went to get the keys. When I called the real estate agent, he said another tenant had already moved in and that “he was sorry.” I wanted to punch him the next day but he wasn’t there.
At one point, I went to the National Housing Corporation headquarters because they said, under the new management, I could apply for government housing. I filled in a slip of paper and gave it to the receptionist. No reply for months. I gave up.
Later when I met the managing director, he said: “Tell me what kind of house you want and we will remove people who have outstanding payments.”
I never went back. The systems don’t work for sane people whose parents taught them to do the right thing.
Income levels for Papua New Guineans have improved. But the rental price structure remains the same. the buying power of the salaries remain very much the same if not worse. On average, rent per week is about the equivalent of a fortnightly salary.
The real estate industry is UNREGULATED. The greed of real estate companies is unbelievable. They are merciless in their pricing. There is no compassion and no understanding. Nobody is willing to cater to the huge need for low cost housing needed by a vast majority of Papua New Guineans.
We have about 10 million people in this country and the majority of them have no hope of affording rental accommodation in urban centers.
Students who graduate from universities have the most difficult time, if their parents don’t live in Port Moresby. I was a Lae kid straight out of school who struggled to live in Port Moresby. I know.
If anything is going to change, it has to start from the National Housing Corporation. they have the mandate to provide affordable housing for Papua New Guineans, yet the NHC is perhaps, the most corrupt (yep, I said it, prove me wrong) government organization in this country.
If the NHC, provided rental properties for anything between K500 and K1500 per month, rental prices would be forced downward. A lot of ‘experts’ tell me, rental prices are due to market forces. I agree to some extent. But humans created market forces. Humans can change the status quo.
The NHC can do this. But they just don’t have the political will to do it.