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Government challenges in housing urban poor

This paper by J.O. Basorun and G. Fadairo examines the activities of Ekiti state government in housing the poor in Ado-Ekiti within the framework of the policies on housing reform in Nigeria

Housing issues and policy problems are both global and inherently, local –specific to a given time and place. Two broad approaches to public housing in the city were identified –direct government housing provision and government-sponsored housing.

The former involves large-scale direct production and ownership of housing that is further from market rents, more strictly allocated according to need and more directly managed by governments. The latter approach is one that is nearer market rents under various kinds of independent landlords (housing associations, cooperatives and private landlords).

Direct government housing provision
The Ekiti State government has attempted to reduce the incidents of accommodating the poor by embarking on feasible residential estates in Ado-Ekiti. At the estates, government designed, built and delivered three categories of houses (2-bedroom, 3-bedroom and 4-bedroom) to the people.

The main requirement for allocation of building to prospective occupants is the deposit of 10 percent of the value of structure. After allocation, the balance is deducted in installments over a period of time not exceeding 20 years. Analysis reveals that only 10.03 percent of the housing units are meant for the low class.

Evidently, the government has the political will, but limited financial resource and low priority to build enough housing to meet a tangible fraction of the housing needs of the city poor. Funding of housing is capital-intensive and almost beyond the reach of the average poor. Achieving sustainability in housing provision for the urban poor requires adequate understanding of the urbanisation process and restructuring of institutions and management approaches (Olotuah, 2005).

Major challenges
Public housing in Ado-Ekiti is confronted by a number of challenges; these can be categorized into four key areas:

Administrative, institutional and management challenge – Paucity of up-to-date and detailed records of housing affordability, demographic transition and culture has been the bane of housing provision in the city. Housing affordability records reveal information on income, saving profile and indices. Demographic transition trend will produce rates and volumes of demographic growth attributable to earlier ages of marriage (Pugh, 2001), thus, prompting housing demand. Culture, in most cases, determines social acceptability of housing based on expectations and the exact needs of the target population.

Financial and economic challenge – The last two decades have witnessed substantial cut in funding to operate, improve and maintain public housing in Nigeria. The effect is felt more in Ekiti State (new generation state) with low government allocation and revenue base. The financial sector of the economy (banks and insurance companies) is hesitant to invest in the National Housing Fund as sub-optimal level of return is envisaged. The contributions of self-employed persons were irregular due to lack of interest in the scheme.

Physical Challenge – This is manifested in two folds. First is the older public housing units confronted with the critical needs and comprehensive rehabilitation and improvement in the face of insufficient revenue. Second is the land tenure and administrative and policy issues hampering housing provision, particularly for the low income group in the informal sector of the economy for which appropriate land reforms would be necessary panacea. A review of the current land tenure system to favour private-led development is, therefore, a priority.

Local participatory challenge – The neglect of perceptions and capabilities of the low-income earners often render most public housing programmes unsustainable. Local communities are in the best position to identify their needs and priorities in housing. They have adequate knowledge of the local building resources and the way of making best uses of them (Olotuah, 2009) to minimize construction cost. They can easily organise themselves into groups and partners with government to contribute significantly to sustainable housing.

The unilateral imposition of discriminatory, restrictive and culturally – insensitive public housing to address shelter-related problems faced by low-income families in the developing world has been unsuccessful. A review of current approach is important to favour private-led initiative in housing development and assure access to land and mortgage loans by people. The development of culturally appropriate space planning, housing and building standards that better reflect and meet the needs and resources of users are feasible options to government direct housing provision.

* Basorun & Fadairo are of the School of Environmental Technology, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria


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