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Real estate experts advocate housing subsidy, liberal access to land

By Kingsley Adegboye

Real Estate stakeholders have advised the present administration to assemble a competent team that will hit the ground running towards addressing the huge housing deficit facing the country, adding that by building 500 houses in each of the 36 states across the nation, the administration can create over one million jobs in Nigeria.

This was the submission of the stakeholders recently in Lagos at a business forum tagged “Real Estate Financing in Nigeria: Modalities, Opportunities and Challenges”  organised by the International Real Estate Federation, FIABCI, Nigeria Chapter.

The real estate professionals expressed worries that foreign investors are now the major players in the housing sub- sector, while local players seem to be on the losing end, a trend they attributed to the unavailability of funds to the local players.

Following a recent forecast by the International Monetary Fund, IMF that 70 percent of the world’s growth will come from the emerging economies like Nigeria, the housing experts are therefore looking at the ways the government can harness the great investment opportunities available in the sector, as well as provide an alternative means of financing apart from the traditional bank loans which have become rather discouraging.

Speaking, Mr. S P.O. Fortune-Ebie, pioneer Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority, FHA, advised the government to make funds available in order to subsidise mortgages as well as making land titles available to the people.

According to Fortune-Ebie, former president, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers,”The most important thing to do to address this alarming housing deficit in Nigeria is that government must make funds available. Whoever is telling government that housing is not subsidised is a liar. Even recently in the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister has worked out a scheme for new house owners with subsidies for students to become new house owners.

“But here in Nigeria that we practice voodoo economics, the President is told that housing is not subsidised. All over the world, housing is subsidised. Secondly, the question of title to land must be concluded and land made available to people”, he said.

In the same vein, Mr. Obi Nwogugu, Managing Director, FSDH Asset Management Limited, Fund Manager, Africa Capital Alliance, noted that the major issue that has led to the increasing housing deficit in Nigeria is policy somersault by successive administrations.

According to him, this issue discourages real estate investors from dealing with governments in addressing the huge housing deficit in the country. “As real estate investors, there are a lot of risks that come with dealing with government. By the time you are dealing with this government, when another one comes on board, you lose out.

“So, real estate investors now believe that the less you deal with government, the better for you. Again, today, the supply of residential housing in Nigeria is not growing because it is difficult to finance and buy it. If you have mortgages in this country, more people can afford to buy houses.

“The fact that on the buyer’s side, you have to save money for20 years before you can afford to buy a house is a problem on its own. Why can’t one go to a bank and get a real mortgage that he can pay over 20 years, without paying 25 per cent every year? But this is not working at the moment. Until there is a real mortgage system in Nigeria, things will remain the same”, Nwogugu stated.

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