CHIKA OKEKE examines the housing policies initiated by the previous and current administrations and writes on the need for feasible policies to trim the housing deficit.
Nigeria with over 180 million population is experiencing a rough battle in addressing the current housing deficit pegged at over 17 million units. This is even as the country has been challenged in the provision of mass and affordable housing for the informal sector, civil servants and low income earners who constitute over 80 percent of the population.
Findings highlighted that one of the major housing policies that were initiated during Shehu Shagari administration in 1979 failed to meet the housing needs of Nigerians due to absence of designs that captured diverse cultural delineation. Recall that when the national technical working committee under the housing thematic area of the Vision 20:2020 was inaugurated on 18th April, 2009, they were asked to make recommendation towards the contribution of housing to Vision 20:2020 goal of the federal government.
Part of the vision was to make housing available to all Nigerians by the Year 2020 and also make the housing sector one of the top three contributors to the nation’s economy by adding 10 million decent and affordable homes to the national housing stock by the year 2020.
The overall target for the sector was to contribute to Nigeria’s quest to achieve a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $900 billion with an annual growth of 15 percent by 2020. The thematic area chaired by Mr Stephen Mayaki suggested that for Nigeria to meet up with its housing needs by the year 2020, the federal government must provide the legal and regulatory environment that would attract Public Private Partnership (PPP).
Also, to work with financial sector operators and regulators to develop an effective primary housing finance system, reduce the cost of houses by developing and promoting appropriate designs production technologies for the sector and among others. However in 2000, the then federal government promised to provide housing for all Nigerians, with the acronym, Housing for All by Year 2000 which also failed to yield positive result.
The 2012 national housing policy, aimed at providing affordable housing for Nigerians failed woefully as the current housing deficit still stands at between 17 to 20 million units. With the election of APC- led administration in 2015, the federal government promised to embark on a National Housing Programme (NHP) across the 36 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) The pilot project is ongoing in 34 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with the exemption of Lagos and Rivers states whose governors failed to donate land for the project, though the monies spent on the project so far is still shrouded in secrecy.
Experts are however kicking against the current housing policy, which they believe might not address the bogus housing deficit. The former president of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Tpl. Steve Onu disclosed that affordable housing in a private sector driven environment would not be achieved without subsidy.
He said that Nigerians should not be deceived considering that the modus operandi of affordable housing in other countries is incomparable with the current housing programmes in the country. Onu linked the success story of Singapore to the election of a strong leader that has vision and political will, adding that the country has well structured institution to implement government policies and programmes.
He noted since the previous government in Nigeria drafted a national housing policy since 2012, that the incumbent minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola was supposed to have studied the policy and compelled relevant agencies to come up with action plans for the achievement of the sectoral goals instead of embarking on a pilot project for a NHP that might not address the housing challenges.
Onu stated that though Singaporean government has private developers that the Housing & Development Board (HDB) is busy building houses for a target group noting that the houses are allocated based on need and not sold in the open market as done in Nigeria. HDB is the statutory board of the ministry of national development responsible for public housing in Singapore.
The expert emphasised that no individual owns more than one public housing in Singapore even as he regretted that Nigeria could hardly make progress since the president or governors do not believe in rule of law. In his contribution, the former managing director of Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Prof Mustapha Zubairu lamented that Nigeria is yet to develop a viable housing delivery system despite the existence of national housing policy and urban development policies since 2012, stating that the two policies are gathering dust on the shelves of the federal and state governments.
The expert stated that government focused on building houses alone while neglecting other important components of large-scale housing development like land, finance, infrastructure, building materials and labour. According to him, “Nigeria needs a marshal plan that will enable the country address the huge urban infrastructure deficit in virtually all the cities and towns; and to institutionalise an integrated development planning that will enable us develop sustainable mechanism for financing, managing and governance of our cities and towns”.
This he believed would alleviate endemic urban poverty; enhance affordability of housing especially among the poor and low-income families; ameliorate climate change and contribute in restructuring of towns and cities when implemented. He asserted that 95 percent of Singapore’s 5.5 million population owned their houses while 4.5 percent live in rented accommodation provided by the government since their income is below US$12.000 per annum. Zubairu hinted that the feat was achieved through the HDB irrespective of the fact that Singapore is a one-city country occupying 741square kilometres of land. He wondered if Nigeria has the political will, knowledge, skills and commitment to change the current housing quagmire, stressing that effective housing delivery system could be the catalyst to boost our image abroad.
The former managing director further attributed Singapore’s successes to a transparent Information and Communications Technology (ICT)- based system that facilitated equal access to one housing project at a time to its three ethnic nationalities, which he described as his dream for Nigeria. Lending his voice, a developer, Arc Adewunmi Towolawi Okupe noted that if the cost of houses are moderate and targeted towards particular income group that affordable housing would be achievable.
He stated that a tenant who lived in a rented apartment for over 20 years must have paid more than enough to build the house. Okupe pointed out that one of the company’s concept is to design houses for a particular income group and structure monthly repayment of not more than one third of their monthly income, which he believed would make the houses affordable for the group. Giving a breakdown on N100 billion housing intervention fund, he emphasised that 967 units of housing could be built annually with subscribers monthly payment .
He asserted that a minimum of 45, 000 three bedrooms houses could be built with N100 billion at the cost of N6 million each. Okupe maintained that the fund could be set on autopilot to produce 5000 three bedroom houses yearly after the initial 16,667 three bedroom houses or more if the fund would be used for the construction of one and two bedroom houses for low income earners.