By YINKA KOLAWOLE
Estate surveyors and valuers have faulted the position of the federal government on the concept of social housing, even as they appeal to the National Assembly to accelerate the passage of the Social Housing bill.
Minister of Land, Housing & Urban Development Ms Ama Pepple, said recently in Lagos, at the induction of 97 registered surveyors by the Estate Surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON), that contrary to the opinion held by some people, social housing is not the delivery of free housing to the public.
Pepple who was represented by the Federal Controller of Lands, Housing & Urban Development in Lagos, Mr Onaeko Olayinka, argued that the place of government is to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to excel.
According to the minister, government is supporting social housing by ensuring that houses are produced in large numbers, cheaply and at the highest quality for the benefit of low income group. She said government hopes to achieve this by exploring options available in alternative materials that will de-emphasise the use of cement.
“We are testing stabilised bricks from South Africa in our pilot scheme in Kuje, Abuja.Our building material testing laboratory in Yaba, Lagos is also coming up with options to cement based materials. This will not only lead to the crash of cement price but also drastically bring the price of houses down,” she stated.
President, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Mr. Emeka Eleh, however disagreed with the government position. According to him, government owes it a duty to accommodate all citizens by providing for the poor and creating the right environment for those who could do so to build on their own, noting that the British government provides council flats for low income earners.
He recalled that the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) was set up to provide social housing, lamenting that it has since deviated by going commercial, making the houses they build unaffordable to the common man. He called on the government to come up with an agency that can deliver social housing in the true sense of it to take people from the street.
“We believe that if you are talking about housing for all in this country, there is no way it will not have social housing component. FHA was established to provide social housing, it should be seen to be performing that function. You cannot achieve an equitable society without providing for those who don’t have; those who lack the basic things they should have,” he said.
Eleh asserted that though the housing sector is better driven by the private sector, government has to facilitate equitable distribution of housing to ensure that everybody is properly housed, adding that an element of social housing has to be provided by government.
“What we should be talking about here is that every year, each local government should put 100 housing units into the market. If they had been doing this in the past 10 years, each would have put in 1,000 units. These local governments are close to the people and therefore should know their needs more than the state or the Federal Government.
They are better placed to allocate these houses to those who need them on a special basis. We therefore encourage the development of social housing because it will ultimately lead to a more equitable society, one in which everybody has a home and nobody lives under the bridge,” he stated.
Also, Principal Partner, Akin Olawore & Co, Mr. Akin Olawore, noted that the concept of social housing worldwide is about government providing housing free to the disadvantaged members of the populace such as single mothers, orphans, elder citizens and the unemployed. He said another way government can deliver social housing is by giving land free to developers and pegging the price it can be sold or rented to the public when completed.