MR. Chuks Omeife is the President Nigeria Institute of Builders, NIOB. In this interview with VanguardFeatures,VF, he lamented that mortgage institutions in Nigeria, have abandoned their primary mandate of providing finance at reasonable costs.
He also stated that the new National Policy on Housing may not be the solution to the problem of housing, adding that it can be part of the solution.
LOOKING at the increasing demand for housing particularly for the teeming low income group in Nigeria coupled with the demolitions going on for instance in Lagos and other places, how do you think the new National Housing Policy can effectively address the housing needs of the people?
As we know a policy is a statement of well articulated process and intention. In this case by government of how a desirable result, in this respect the provision of housing for Nigerians is going to be actualised and delivered. Whether this intention is eventually actualised is in itself a different matter altogether. That the policy addresses the process of how Nigerians are going to be housed is not again in doubt.
The housing policy clearly articulates how each income group in the country can be effectively be catered for including the no-income group. To actualise the intentions of the policy there are strategies, initiatives, processes, institutional framework that must be put in place, co-ordinated, monitored, evaluated and assessed for impact through feedback. It is when all this are done that one can positively align one’s thinking to the genuine intention of government in respect of housing provision for Nigerians.
Do you think the new policy can actually bring about home ownership for all in Nigeria?
Yes, the new housing policy if driven by a genuine intention and backed by the necessary political will can bring about home ownership for majority of Nigerians, not all. The issue of numbers can be adjusted as time goes on but let the government attempt to put in place the proposed enabling process and structure as encapsulated in the policy that will commence the process of actualisation.
One major shift of mindset in the policy is the reduction and possibly elimination of government role in the direct physical construction in housing delivery and the promotion of private sector led growth in the housing sector. This can only be realised if government starts by showing deep commitment by creating the enabling and operating environment necessary for attracting investment.
Against the backdrop of the 1991 National Housing Policy which couldn’t address the problems of housing issues in the country, do you think the new policy can be implemented as envisaged?
Given the fact that we are not trying to re-invent the wheel, this is something that has become a tradition in other countries.
In the developed economies, the process of housing provision is standardised just like buying a Cell phone sim card though with obvious conditions attached. I do not see any reason why the policy cannot be implemented as proposed, the major challenges that past policies have had to contend with are lack of political will and insincerity of purpose on the part of government and government functionaries.
If government can commence in earnest the process of institutional, administrative, legal and regulatory reforms then the journey would have started. Issues relating to land use act, ease of access to finance, viability of financing institutions must be tidied up quickly and laid to rest. It is after all this and some other things have commence that we can start trusting that government is sincere about the laudable intentions in the housing policy.
Does the new policy take into cognizance the cumbersome nature of accessing mortgage finance thereby making mortgage financing flexible?
Yes, the new policy touched extensively on the issue of mortgage financing and its accessibility. This issue is one major challenge that must be fully implemented as proposed in the new policy without which the issue of housing provision and acquisition will remain a mirage.
Let us look at the housing status in Nigeria today, even with the low addition in terms of housing provided by different categories of developers across the country, their sale and acquisition is a problem because of the cash and carry mentality. How many Nigerians in paid employment can in all honesty saved between N20million- N50milion to buy a house in their lifetime. It is because there is no adequate Institutional/Regulatory framework and strict monitoring of Mortgage Institutions that has made it look as if the process is cumbersome.
Most of the existing Mortgage Institutions have left their primary mandate of providing finance at reasonable cost to Nigerians to enable them acquire houses and instead have diverted the funds and have turned developers and selling houses on cash and carry basis due to lack of monitoring by the supervisory government agencies or apex financial Institution-CBN.
All this are part of what has made the process seem cumbersome in addition to the fact that genuine Mortgage operators are very few if non-existent in the Nigeria housing market.
Do you think that social housing as being proposed by the
federal government is solution to the problem of housing in the country?
There is need for us to understand the concept of social housing before considering its impact on the problem of housing in this country. Social housing refers to houses provided using all necessary strategies that will enhance cost reduction to ensure its affordability by the no-income and low-income group in the society.
The approach is multi-faceted and involves complementary participation of different group including NGO’S, CBO’S, FBO’S. The strategies to be adopted includes and not limited to total funding of site and services by government to facilitate affordable access, ownership schemes, rental schemes, home improvement schemes, on-site upgrading, building in stages, slum upgrading and many others especially in the rural areas.
It may not necessarily be the solution to the problem of housing but surely can be part of the solution. This social housing is targeted at a particular groups in the society who have hitherto been left uncared for due to their low economic power and as you are aware there are all other groups based on our economic power that the policy intend to cater for. The new housing policy intention is tailored towards housing provision for all strata of the society irrespective of your economic strength.