By Jude Njoku & Kingsley Adegboye
Nigeria is said to have a deficit of about 17 million housing units. Although this staggering figure has been disputed by officials of the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and some prominent industry stakeholders, what cannot be controverted is the fact that most of the deficit are in the low -income category. What measures should be adopted to cater for the housing needs of this vulnerable segment of the society?
Real estate experts who spoke to Vanguard Homes & Property on this touchy issue canvassed the use of unconventional approaches if the dream of social housing would be actualised in the country.
Affordable housing not feasible
The Managing Director of UACN Property Development Company, UPDC PLC, Mr. Hakeem Ogunniran described affordable housing as a very touchy issue in Nigeria but regretted that the existing scenario does not support its provision by private estate developers. He enjoined President Muhammadu Buhari and the state governors to focus on the provision of primary infrastructure.
“We need to focus on infrastructure, especially primary infrastructure. It is the responsibility of the government to provide infrastructure. If you look at this estate (James Pinnock Estate, Lekki), the access road through which we came here was jointly constructed by our company and another developer. Today, every developer is like a local government, on its own.
You do your primary infrastructure, you do secondary infrastructure, you do your road, you do your power, your sewage and water treatment. But the more the government takes on its own responsibility of providing primary infrastructure, the benefit will come to the consumers because that will lead to reduced cost of construction and the benefits are automatically passed on to the consumers,” he said.
On whether UPDC will embark upon the development of affordable houses, Ogunniran said, ”It is difficult to answer that question. Our houses are in four categories – luxury, premium, classic and comfort homes. We have also done things at the lower end of the market; we have not done affordable housing. That’s a very touchy subject in this country. In the future, we are going to do estates in that category as we have done in the past”.
Jettison conventional housing provision methods
For the President of the Commonwealth Association of Surveying and Land Economy, CASLE, Mr. Joseph Olusegun Ajanlekoko, the problem with housing in Nigeria is land availability, funding and design. “If government can tackle infrastructure which is key towards having a decent housing, then the private sector can take over building houses for the people. The social housing which you are talking about, is a government responsibility and government can have access to funds if there is a very articulate policy targeted towards providing houses for the masses.
For me, the government has to decide to come into partnerships under PPP programmmes. The private sector is more credible as far as funding is concerned. If the new government can provide the enabling environment, provide the needed infrastructure, I think that funds for housing can easily come in,” he said.
Continuing, the former President of both the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria, APBN and Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, NIQS said, “ There will be two tiers of funding, the first is for affordable housing and that is why I said design has to come in. We have been living in a fool’s paradise; these kind of buildings that we have here can warehouses at least three housing units effortlessly and they will have all amenities that we need. Seriously, the appetite of Nigerians for big things must be curtailed.
We must use unconventional approach to fast track housing. In America, most of the houses are done on fast track housing; they use unconventional systems. This brick and mortar will not take us far. It is still because we have this mindset of building big, using the conventional building approach, that is the bane of this country. You cannot use expensive funds to build houses, it is not possible.
It is a fundamental problem that must be solved by the government. This again goes hand in hand with land reformation. If you have access to land and have title documents to land, I tell you, you can get funds with it. Government must provide the enabling environment for housing; they must take care of social housing; they must create the necessary infrastructure so that the private sector can come in to do mass housing.
There must also be access to land and land titles and we must curtail our unsearchable appetite for dream housing. We must do basic functional housing, cost effective so that many people can afford it and then whoever wants to go beyond that bracket, can do his own.”
Encourage producers of local building materials
In his own submission, the President of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, NIQS, Alhaji Murtala Aliyu called on the government to encourage the development of local raw materials in addition to giving incentives to genuine property developers. “The truth is that there is no way government alone can supply housing. Government may continue to intervene, but not in a fundamental way. By promoting serious property investors, I think we should be able to address the housing gap in the country.
There are stories that we have about 17 million housing deficit, I think that what is important is to take care of the supply end. The demand will always be there, even in developed countries, there are demands. So, once we are able to attend to the supply end, encourage people that are developing estates at affordable rates, encourage the development of local building/construction materials and also giving incentives like concessions or whatever to these housing developers, I think we can get out of this housing problems,” he said.
Continuing, Aliyu said: “Apart from blocks, and to some extent, roofs, we import most of our things for low-cost housing. I know that there is an initiative by the government to develop capacity but there must be a deliberate programme to support producers of construction materials locally, That’s the only way we can have low-cost housing.
Government can provide the appropriate or enabling environment for housing development. Government should give incentives to the producers of local building materials and also make it easy for developers to acquire land for housing estates.”
Non-effective mortgage system
The President of Building Collapse Prevention Guild, BCPG, Mr Kunle Awobodu listed the problems hampering housing provision to include high cost of land and building materials and lack of manpower in the building industry. Others include lack of social housing programmes, non-effective mortgage system and stagnation of the economy.
He decried the rising cost of land and building materials in the country “Another problem is the dearth of skilled and competent artisans in the building sector. Skilled and competent artisans come from the neighbouring West African countries such as Togo, Benin Republic and others to do jobs like tiling and POP in Nigeria. Nigerian youths are not ready for such jobs, they are only interested in what will bring immediate money for them,” he lamented.
The former NIOB chairman also decried the lack of an effective mortgage system in Nigeria. According to him, the cost of borrowing money from commercial banks to construct houses is so high that by the time the houses are completed, they become unaffordable