Housing for all has remained a popular phrase, which successive governments deployed to show commitment to the plight of citizens in the area of shelter. The phrase, to the best of the knowledge of the same citizens, has been relegated to a mere political statement.
This is so because no one has been able to live up to that billing of providing housing no matter how affordable and comfortable it could be. In the past, particularly in Lagos, especially under Lateef Kayode Jakande, as a few of these housing schemes were put up for the people. Also, during the 1977 African Festival of Arts and Culture in Lagos, the Federal Government provided housing for the teeming population of Africans and other expatriates that came for the festival.
Immediately after the festival was over, the houses were bought over by lucky members of the public and those connected to the Federal Government. The Nigerian public, through that, experienced life in estates while other Estates began to spring up. If the government, after the 1977 festival, had continued to construct two housing estates of say 2,000 units in each state for successive 10 years, by now the pattern of building houses without a plan would have died out. Asides that, accommodation would have been more available and affordable to the public.
These days, what is popular is that the Federal Government is committed to providing the needed enabling environment for sustainable housing development in the country, said the Minister of Housing. The same goes for the Commissioners for Housing in the states who keep assuring that they are committed to providing houses for their citizens. These, however, are not forthcoming as private individuals have taken it upon themselves to build estates tagged “for the low-income earners” whereas, in reality, there has never been a clear-cut definition to delineate the strata in the society to know who and who form the low-income earners. Nonetheless, the few ones the government tried to put up are always bought over by the same rich persons and resold to the low-income earners at a higher price. Yet government fails to monitor the exercise to find out the modality of distribution. By this, the government aids in widening the gap between the rich and the poor because the rich would continue to amass more wealth whereas the poor would become poorer.
Recently, the Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, while fielding questions from newsmen on the Millard Fuller Foundation, an indigenous estates development company with emphasis on affordable housing development for low and middle income class at Masaka, a border town between Nasarawa State and the Federal Capital Territory, said, “what was needed now was to double the capacities of the partners and address the problem of sustainable housing programme, which includes creating the enabling environment.”
Experts posit that after such inspections, no more surveillances are exerted on the part of the government to see how that project was executed. This puts a question mark on the commitment, which government sings like an anthem at every forum. By all intents and purposes, the government has been reiterating its commitment to support efforts at developing a sustainable national housing programme but the issue is that immediately after such wishful statements, nothing is done in that direction to ensure that the objectives of such programmes are implemented to the letter.
Looking at the statistics of housing schemes in the country, we see that there are tremendous opportunities in the Nigerian housing sector waiting to be tapped. But government must note, however, that there are challenges to harnessing these potential inherent in the Nigerian housing sector and invariably providing affordable housing in the country. These challenges would be confronted if government’s commitment to providing housing is anything to go by.
The challenges include, but not limited to legislation, registering property, risk sharing, absence of national credit database, stable macroeconomic environment and knowledge gap. Others are dealing with licenses, taxes, enforcing contracts, high cost of building materials as well as infrastructure. If the Federal Government handles the above challenges, there would be acceleration in solving the problems of housing in Nigeria. Policies are better articulated but there have been lack of political will to pursue such policies to logical conclusions to benefit the populace.
A roundtable was called in the past to address the issue of housing, the major outcome of which was the setting up of a Housing Finance Committee chaired by the then Federal Ministry of Finance and comprising the Federal Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development, the Central Bank, Nigerian mortgage and commercial banks, supported by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The committee was mandated to take forward the work of developing a facility that would significantly scale up access to affordable mortgages for the Nigerian people. The outcome of the committee’s work led to the establishment of the Nigeria Mortgage Refinancing Company (NMRC) to significantly increase the liquidity available to mortgage organizations such as primary mortgage institutions (PMIs), banks, housing microfinance institutions and other financial actors.
In order to achieve the above, on January 16, 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan launched the NMRC signaling the beginning of a process that would finally increase opportunities for Nigerians to own homes at an affordable price. The process was also to involve the reinvigoration of mass housing initiatives, which would, along with the NMRC, give the housing sector the necessary stimulus to start realizing its great potential for the good of the country. However, these fine policies have been put in place but the political will to implement them have been lacking.
But it is not only individual Nigerians who will benefit from the establishment of the NMRC and the Jonathan administration’s stronger focus on mass housing. The country as a whole will also gain significantly from the unleashing of a sector with the capacity to transform the entire economy through millions of direct and indirect jobs as well as many other ancillary benefits.
The governors of Abia, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Delta, Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Edo, Enugu, Ondo and Ogun states and the FCT have signed on to work on the housing initiative. An important component to the launch of the NMRC, which is the development of mass housing schemes by private developers working with the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) and other institutions has not been given the vigor and vitality to grow. This also slowed the morale of the states that have already signed in to collaborate. When this is done, some of the mass housing schemes would be done on a rent-to-own model that would allow low-income participants to rent a home over 15-20 years and then own the property at the end of the period.
Source: Nigeria Today