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Real Estate

Why PMBs can’t create mortgages or give housing loans

After the consolidation and recapitalisation of the primary mortgage institutions (PMIs), leading to their name change, reduction in their number from 83 to 40 at the time, and increase in capital base, expectation was that their impact would be felt considerably in the housing sector.

 But, even though the capital base of the PMIs which became primary mortgage banks (PMBs) was moved from the statutory N100 million to N2.5 billion for those licenced to operate at regional level and N5billion for those with national operating licence, Nigeria’s housing problem still persists.

 When the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) was set up by the federal government, part of its mandate was to increase liquidity in the mortgage market as a critical step towards increasing housing affordability.

 Twice, the company has raised funds from the capital market, totalling N18 billion as at December 2018, to refinance mortgages originated by the PMBs. But only a few of them had mortgages for refinancing.

 From the consolidation and recapitalisation time to this moment, many of the PMBs have been struggling, unable to originate mortgages or give housing loans. Not even the revised operational guidelines by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which stripped the PMBs of other business concerns and compelled them to focus on their core business of providing mortgages and housing finance for home ownership and other forms of property acquisition, has helped matters.

  “The problems of mortgage banks revolve around their small capital base and so there isn’t much they can do. For all the money I have, unless I raise additional capital, I don’t think I can do 1,000 mortgages,” Ayodele Olowookere, the CEO, Omoluabi Mortgage Bank, explained to us in an interview.

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  “I think mortgage banks need to do self-enlightenment and education to grow the industry,” he added. He explained that over time there has been a wrong perception of the mortgage industry which, according to him, was understandable because a lot of mortgage banks had also done what was not right like collecting money from people and not giving back.

 A lot of people say they will never go near mortgage banks because of some unethical conducts like this. Though Rose Okwechime, CEO, Abbey Mortgage Bank Plc, attributes some people’s apathy to mortgage banks to the “newness” of the mortgage system, Olowookere insisted that it was as a result of lack of self-education by the operators.

 Besides these reasons, analysts observe that some of these PMBs are not doing well because the Nigerian business environment is both hostile and risky. So, if these banks are not originating mortgages or giving housing loans, it could be for either of two factors or both.

 One is that a lot of people who would have taken mortgages or subscribed to mortgage products are unemployed. Many of those who are employed are either not mortgageable or suffering from job insecurity. The second point is that the money that many of these PMBs have is short-term deposits and, therefore, cannot be given out to long-term borrowers.

 Paul Onwuanibe, CEO, Landmark Group, adds what he calls “the big issue,” which is the fact that there is a clear absence of mortgage-viable properties out there in the market on which mortgage could be created.

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 “The basic principle of a mortgage is that you must have steady income and be in gainful employment. You must be able to provide income in multiples for the property that will be built for your use. If your income is N4 million per annum, for instance, and the cost of the property is N30 million, unless you want to steal, you cannot afford that property and there is no mortgage for you at that rate given your income,” he explained to us.

 In other economies, the mortgage sector is a huge contributor to economic growth, but in Nigeria, the sector’s contribution to GDP is less than one percent, which is why the industry operators are canvassing government’s intervention as has been done in the agric sector.

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 According to them, government must understand that if the mortgage industry is well-run and there is a good policy thrust to support its operations, it will diversify the economy with job creation. “The focus on other non-oil sectors, especially agriculture, is good because Nigerians need to feed themselves, but everybody also needs shelter and this can only be possible if the mortgage sector is made functional,” Olowookere said.

 Onwuanibe affirmed, adding that “the mortgage industry has to improve, and developers have to be encouraged to build mortgage-viable and ready properties; mortgage interest rates have to be reduced to single digit and made available; the whole process of securing mortgage has to be made clearer and more transparent, and the mortgage has to be available on the ‘retail high street’ such that every time you go out looking for it, you see it.”

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Source: Chuka Uroko

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