Why has the multiple housing initiatives implemented by Nigeria over the years failed to be of any significant impact to the country’s humongous housing needs? A lot of people blame it on corruption, others blame it on bad policies, and they are both right. As a matter of fact, the two influences each other.
A housing policy that is not well thought out and measured to satisfy the needs of the majority who needs those houses wouldn’t achieve much. A lot of experts in the housing policy sector believe that most housing projects in Nigeria over decades have only served the need of the minority rich, in disregard of the majority poor. That is where the problem lies.
Majority of Nigeria’s 200 million people live in urban slums and unfit houses, while the rich occupy overpriced estates in a few cities. While the equation presents a recipe for social disaster, the political elite do not feel the urgent need to turn things around for the better.
It has become increasingly important for the government, both at the federal and state levels to strengthen housing and urban development policies to accommodate households’ social demographic characteristics.
A lot of stakeholders have expressed concerns over the present approach and policy, which allowed unfettered market forces in determining housing consumption. Some have also warned that the policy would not achieve the desired results of access to decent, safe and affordable housing for all Nigerians.
The call is for the introduction of more social housing schemes like Family Homes Funds to take care of the needy that cannot take care of their housing needs on their own. The social housing scheme must be vigorously pursued for the sake of the vulnerable that are majority in the country.
The first tenure of Babatunde Raji Fashola saw him undertake a pilot National Housing Programme which led to a nationwide housing construction in various states of the federation. According to the minister, while giving account of his service mentioned that construction works at these project sites are an ecosystem of human enterprise where artisans, vendors, suppliers and craftsmen are direct beneficiaries as well as contributors to nation building.
It is therefore important that unlike previous housing programmes in Nigeria, this one should not be abandoned, but reinvigorated and adapted to prevailing challenges in a way that more results can be achieved and more houses built for the poor who needs them the most. According to Housing Development Advocacy Network, the projects that are ongoing should be completed and new ones initiated, and must be affordable for those that genuinely need the houses.
President Buhari has frequently spoken about his passion for the poor, and many believe that the greatest way to show this, especially under the Next Level government is to address one of the most important, yet near impossible needs of the poor masses – housing.
There is high expectation for the government and the minister of works and housing to implement policies and projects that will enable the construction of mass affordable housing for the poorest majority in the country. Only this can trigger the most revolutionary growth needed in the country’s economic sector, which will in turn attract local and foreign investments.