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Developer identifies way out of Nigeria’s housing problem

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By Kingsley Adegboye

THAT Nigeria has a housing deficit of 17 million units is no longer news. But what will interest Nigerians now is to identify the problems associated with housing provision in the country and find solutions to these problems in order to drastically reduce this huge deficit”.

This was the submission of the Managing Director of Lashone Property Nig. Limited, a real estate development firm and subsidiary of Lasone Group of Companies, Mr. Lanre Shonekan, at the just concluded annual stakeholders’ meeting organised by the company in Lagos.

Pointing out that in terms of meeting the country’s housing needs, there is a lot to be done, the boss of the Lagos-based real estate development company said “Lets start from availability of land itself. The Land Use Act says all lands belong to the government. This means that all lands in every state belong to the state government.

“But to help the situation, if government at all levels can give land to developers rather than developers chasing after Omo ni les (land owners) for land for purpose of constructing housing estates, this will help. In every country where land is made available for developers, is one way the housing problem of the country has been solved.

“The second issue affecting housing provision is land documentation. The title to land is an issue. Some times you spend two to three years in trying to get title to your land. Coupled with land documentation, is lack of basic infrastructure at development sites such as road network, drainage system, electrification and others.

“Some developers like us who cannot afford to buy land in urban areas, we go into the interior to buy cheap land. We will start developing the place and when government sees that the place has been developed, they will come and say government acquisition covers the area. They will pursue you out of the place, and when that happens, you are back to square one.

“So, there is much to be done in terms of housing provision in the country. The solution starts with government at all levels. Government can identify serious developers like us with integrity and record of delivery and give us land for development as the beginning of solving housing problem in the country.

“Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria REDAN, can also identify some of us that are serious in the business of housing delivery and give us land and also make sure documentation time is reduced as another way of addressing the housing problem of Nigeria.

Furthermore, the industrialization of this country is equally very important. Let me tell you that between 70 and 80 per cent of building materials developers use in this country are imported. You can see the high rate of foreign exchange in Nigeria. So, if the government can grant special subvention to importers of these materials, it can also help to address the problem of housing in the nation. As at today, a bag of cement is N2, 750.

“This is a bag of cement we used to buy at less than N1,000 some years back. So, all these put together, there is no way the cost of a housing unit can be made affordable to low income earners who are in the majority. In our own case at Lashone, affordable housing is our major focus, and we are trying to see how we can make it work”, Shonekan noted.

According to him, effective mortgage system that is lacking in the country is another bane of housing provision in Nigeria, stressing that “We have the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria FMBN, we have Federal Mortgage Refinancing Company FMRC and primary mortgage institutions PMIs.

If they are all effective in their primary objective of granting mortgages to developers at low interest rate payable between 10 and 15 years, housing provision in the country will become highly affordable.

“This is what we should be looking at in this period of recession where there are houses for sale everywhere and to let signs all over the place but people to buy and rent them are not forthcoming because there is no money anywhere in the country. So, we also need to inject money into the economy to industrialise the nation, if we must move forward in this country”, Lashone boss stated.

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