A very robust roadmap on housing was one of the early policies and programmes of the Muhammadu Buhari administration that Nigerians, especially those in the low-income class and still in the housing market, welcomed with high expectations. But as the clock ticks for the end of Buhari’s first tenure, these expectations are waning.
The roadmap, which focuses on home seekers who are in the majority and those who are most vulnerable, places much premium on planning which, the government reasoned, was key to successful execution, requiring a clear understanding of those for whom houses are to be provided.
Nigeria’s housing market is populated by an army of low-income earners which explains the wide housing demand-supply gap estimated at 20 million units. Again, the clan of people considered to be vulnerable – people that are generally incapacitated one way or another – is large in the country.
This was why the roadmap raised much hope, but with a few weeks to the end of Buhari’s first term in office and little or nothing done to cater to this class of people, hope on the roadmap is dimming with each passing day.
“The roadmap was well conceived and conveyed by the minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, but like anything in Nigeria, it is always easier said than done,” said Yemi Madamidola, a real estate manager. “Here, government finds it hard to walk its talk and this is why we don’t get anything done.”
Madamidola noted, however, that since Buhari was coming back for a second term in office, there was need to follow through the roadmap in order to deliver housing to those in that class who would never be able to afford what was on offer in the open market.
Though Johnson Chukwuma, a structural engineer, applauded the roadmap, saying government’s intervention in the housing sector was long overdue, Adetokunbo Ajayi, MD/CEO, Propertygate Development & Investment Company plc, warned that government should trade cautiously with the roadmap.
“Government should avoid the temptation of getting into housing construction in its zeal to accelerate housing delivery. That will lead to regression and breed corruption,” Ajayi advised. “Government should rather focus on helping to build strong housing and mortgage systems with the private sector serving as the engine of execution.”
But Fashola insisted that government must lead the change that was needed in the housing sector, recalling that over the years, Nigeria had embarked on a series of housing initiatives but not one of them had been pursued with consistency or any measurable sustainability.
“We are convinced that this change must be led by government and subsequently driven by the private sector,” Fashola said.
He cited the public housing initiative of the United Kingdom which was started by government in 1918 and, as of 2014, had recorded 64.8 percent of the people who were home-owners.
Fashola also cited Singaporean initiative in housing which, he added, was started by government in 1960 and has provided housing for 80 percent of its people.
He pointed out that what was common to both models was that there was a uniformity of design, a common target to house working class people and not the elite, standardisation of fittings like doors, windows, space, electrical and mechanical, and also a common concept of neighbourhood.
Re-emphasising the focus of the plan on the low-income earners and the most vulnerable, the minister also recognised that there were people who wanted just land to build for themselves, and also those who wanted town houses and duplexes, whether detached or semi-detached.
“But this class of people is not in the majority and so, they are not part of the target of the plan. The people who we must focus on are those in the majority and those who are most vulnerable,” he stressed.
Source: By CHUKA UROKO