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Why FG Must Provide Social Housing

Housing is one of the most essential needs of man. It ranks atop in the order of human needs, coming after food. Indeed, everyone has a fundamental human right to housing, which ensures access to a safe, secure, habitable, and affordable home with freedom from forced eviction.

It is the government’s obligation to guarantee that everyone can exercise this right to live in security, peace, and dignity. This right must be provided to all persons irrespective of income or access to economic resources.For low-income individuals in Nigeria, affording adequate housing can be difficult. Supporters of government provided (or government subsidized) housing say that it is the government’s role to ensure that housing is provided, and that private sector sometimes do not have a reliable enough revenue stream to guarantee housing to all those in need.

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As governments seek more cost-efficient ways to invest in affordable housing, it will be important that housing needs are met through a variety of strategies for people right across the affordability continuum. This will also be true for the community housing sector. Despite the trend towards the commercialisation of the sector, subsidies will still be required, and support from the government will still be necessary, even if direct housing provision ends.

The Government has three main roles in relation to provision of social housing: Helping to create the right conditions for a stable and sustainable housing market that supports economic growth and prosperity; Providing support for individuals and families to access housing, particularly the most vulnerable in society; and Setting minimum standards for the quality of new and existing homes and for how rented housing is managed.

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Demand for housing is a factor of income. In a country were over eighty per cent of the adults are either not employed or under-employed, one wonder how the mortgage will be repaid. In countries with higher employment rates like United States of America and United Kingdom, mortgage repayment still pose a problem, how much more Nigeria where over 80 per cent of the workforce are not employed or underemployed. The potent solution to our housing problem is the development of social housing as housing should not be a poverty index. In a country with over eighty per cent of people within the poverty threshold, housing cannot be viewed as an economic good only. It is equally a social good.

Government must develop further innovation in the funding of new social housing and make public funding work harder to increase supply; Maintain pathways into affordable housing for social housing tenants; Make the private rented sector a more attractive housing option by improving standards; Improve tenancy regulations, ensure social housing stock is maintained to a good standard; and Improve the energy efficiency of all housing stock. In achieving the above, there is a need for formulation of adequate policies. Hence the policies could be in form of: Developing reform proposals for social housing rent; tenant participation; local government engagement; the regulation and inspection of social housing and the housing functions of agencies in charge of residential estates development.

The adoption and intensive development of local building materials, creation of a viable mortgage finance structure, adequate access to land and affordable housing will in a long way have the advantage of enabling a much wider segment of the low and middle-income group to own, produce and rent their own houses. Access to land is one major contest against social housing, and thus, calls for the best approach to help determine the most suitable part of the cities where cheap land for low income families to build and own their houses could be secured.

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Governments’ plans for social housing programmes must be based on the premise that increasing the volume of accommodation in the country is the most important way to tackle the crisis of unaffordable housing in Nigeria. Also, promoting home-ownership should be an underlying objective of government’s programme.

Home ownership offers unparalleled opportunities for people to better their lives, but for many citizens, it is not an option, and the provision of social housing for rent should be given equal priority.

Government has no excuses for abdicating its duty of care for the downtrodden and the vulnerable in Nigeria. Oil subsidy can be eradicated and in its place should be social housing development and agricultural grants. It will go a long way if the governments can declare state of emergency in housing provision in Nigeria and provide minimum of 500,000 houses every year as social housing for the poor in our major cities.

Affa Dickson Acho

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