A Cost-benefit of Interventions to Increase Compliance with the Construction Permits Process in Malawi: Ensuring the Benefits of Urbanization - Technical Report

Those who live in dwellings constructed with traditional materials are vulnerable to climatic hazards. This vulnerability can be traced to poor quality of materials; poor and variable construction practice, and the lack of adaptation provisions in building design for natural disasters, such as floods and earthquakes. All of these points directly to non-compliance with building regulations and perhaps also to the absence of technical guidance on the appropriate adaptation measures at the local council level. Owner-developers of low-income housing face additional challenges. The dearth of accredited experts, the cost of consulting them and the time and resources required to coordinate with government officials effectively creates a ‘barrier’ to comply with building regulations. Consequently, the cost of compliance renders the construction permit process so expensive, that a significant percentage of houses are constructed with traditional materials, even in areas designated for housing construction. Given the regulatory framework in place and the full devolution of powers to local councils, the lack of compliance to building regulations and the consequent increased climatic risk of urban populations is the matter of particular interest treated in this paper. Poverty, the cost of compliance, and lack of transparency are all motivations for non-compliance in the construction sector, and two interventions are proposed to address them. They are (1) the use of prototype plans to substantially reduce the cost of the plans approval stage of the construction permit process (BCR = 3.3) and (2) the use of ICT in the construction permit process or e-permits, which would improve council productivity and workflow and, render the process more transparent (BCR = 3.2).