By YINKA KOLAWOLE
Experts in the nation’s housing sector have called on the Federal Government to channel the huge funds lying in bank vaults, in the form of unclaimed dividends, dormant accounts, and accumulated premiums from pension schemes, among others, to the development of mass housing schemes across the country.
This formed part of the recommendations of panellists at the 3rd Housing Exhibition and Conference recently organised by ASO Savings and Loans Plc at Abuja. The event was attended by representatives of the different tiers of government, relevant ministries, departments and agencies, the academic community, and those in the housing sector, including researchers, civil society and financial institutions from Nigeria and other parts of the world.
Panelists at the forum recommended that government at all levels should provide an enabling environment for private developers, either by providing the basic infrastructure or an opportunity (tax rebates) for the developers to recoup investments in infrastructural development.
They also called for the formulation of appropriate policies and laws to accelerate the provision of mass housing, including policies to reduce the cost of construction. “In this regard, the Land Use Act, amongst other relevant legislations, should be reviewed to address the bottlenecks it creates in title registration,” they said.
Other recommendations include: Speedy passage of the Foreclosure Bill into Law to encourage infusion of capital to the mortgage banking/housing finance sector as well as guarantee free entry and free exit for existing and potential investors in the sector; Government to make commitments to train artisans and craftsmen, whose inputs are required to deliver durable and affordable housing; Strengthen professional associations and provide relevant practical training; Regulatory bodies should be empowered to prevent the tragic effects of constructing substandard building and; Ensure more effective means of generating data on the nation’s housing challenges for better planning. The forum also called on stakeholders in the sector to explore and invest in research, development and public enlightenment on the use of local materials and innovative architecture (e.g. green construction) in housing construction.
Participants observed that there was serious limitation to the resources available to stakeholders to provide the required number of houses to address the estimated deficit of 12 – 16 million housing units were required to meet the demand for houses in Nigeria.
According to them, the added responsibility given to private developers to provide basic infrastructure like roads, water and electricity supply, among others, contributed to high cost of building in the country. They also noted that majority of existing housing schemes did not enjoy basic infrastructure; ignored traditional architectural designs and building material; did not take advantage of emerging non-conventional technologies; and disregarded local climatic conditions.
The mode of implementation of the Land Use Act in the various states of the federation, they said frustrated efforts to build affordable housing for low-income citizens. They also noted that another major constraint to building of affordable housing is high cost of construction materials, adding that over 60 per cent of these materials were imported.
Executive Secretary, Mortgage Banking Association of Nigeria (MBAN), Mr. Kayode Omotoso, lamented that 53 years independence, numerous challenges still impair Nigeria’s ability to create a vibrant mortgage sector for sustained housing delivery.
He remarked that though access to housing is very readily available through mortgages in developed countries, it had continued to remain a major challenge in some emerging economies like Nigeria’s, due to the poor legal and regulatory framework, high costs of titling, dearth of long term finance and absence of Foreclosure Laws.
Omotosho called for concerted efforts would need to be made by the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Primary Mortgage Banks (PMBs) and Mortgage Banking Association of Nigeria (MBAN) to enhance collection of monthly contributions from more Nigerians to deepen the National Housing Fund (NHF) Scheme in order to create more mortgages towards provision of affordable housing for Nigerians.
He said there is need for primary mortgage banks (PMBs) and other mortgage originators in the sector to work together to form Syndicate/Consortia/Club Arrangements to share risks and expand the scope of project execution for large scale housing estate projects for affordable housing that the mortgage originators would otherwise not finance on their own.