On the 19th of November 2018, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), gave political parties the go ahead to kick-off electioneering campaigns for the 2019 general elections.
The two major gladiators, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress(APC), and his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), both unveiled policy documents, that will serve as a compass for how the country will be governed, if any of them emerges victorious in the 2019 elections.
Both candidates have outlined different issues to be tackled in their policy documents, but issues of affordable housing for the people they want to serve, has failed to work its way into the policy documents of the two major candidates on the road to Aso Rock.
In other climes, housing is usually a major issue of campaign in national elections, the last time that the issue of housing featured prominently in election campaign in Nigeria was during the second republic elections.
The candidate of the NPN then, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, did not put anybody in doubt about his programme for housing. The slogan of his campaign was “Food & Shelter”.
And true to his words, on assumption of office, he embarked on a very revolutionary housing scheme of building housing estates in all the local government headquarters of the country then. Even though the programme was messed up by corruption and partisan politics, it was a very good move.
If successive governments thereafter had built on that foundation, perhaps our current housing deficit which has been put at seventeen million units, would have been less by now.
Affordable housing has remained elusive to the average Nigerian, in spite of numerous programmes put up by successive governments to tackle the issue.
Basically, affordable housing refers to housing that addresses the needs of the low-income earners in the society. This is the section of the society whose income is below the medium household earnings, and the majority of masses of Nigeria belong to this category.
The low and middle income earners especially are the most affected by this. Due to affordability, they live in densely populated or informal ‘slum’ areas. The high income earners, occupy a small percentage of the housing stock, thus, the problem of affordable housing remains a critical issue in the socio-economic wellbeing of Nigeria.
This is an issue that Presidential aspirants, have failed to address, ether by default or oversight. However, aspirants seeking to occupy, the highest office in the land must as a matter of urgency, come up with, or better still look into existing policies that are aimed at creating access to affordable housing.
Addressing the affordable housing challenge should be one of the most important items that any government at the centre, in 2019 should be tackling, because shelter goes a long way in impacting on the lives and general well-being of Nigerians.
It is imperative for presidential aspirants to study and assess the actual housing needs of the low income earners. These aspirants should also know that for low-income earners to be able to buy or rent houses, the price or rent must be low or subsidised by the government.
The development of affordable housing can boost local economic activity through temporary construction related employment and ongoing consumer purchase driven jobs in the local economy. Even more importantly, long after the homes are occupied, the ripple effect from residents of these new units can support new jobs in a wide array of industries, including retail, healthcare, and local government.
Affordable housing development will also boost educational activities in the host communities, because local schools will be flooded with children, and the demand for school facilities and educational services will go up significantly.
This is the time the electorates should demand answers from candidates, the onus is now on the electorates, to engage these aspirants on different platforms, including; town hall meetings, debates, and social media to find out how the candidates intend to address the issues of affordable housing.
It is when these questions are answered satisfactorily, that electorates will know which of the presidential aspirants has a blue print and a workable plan to make the dream of affordable housing a reality, if and when they eventually secure the ‘top job’ in the land.
SOURCE: Affa Dickson Acho