After 57 years of independence, a number of Nigerians are yet to be properly housed despite series of policies on home ownership by the government. DAYO AYEYEMI reports.
Despite the fact that Nigeria made noticeable progress in the housing sector since Independence, the growth recorded so far is not enough to meet the housing needs of its ever-increasing human population, especially low-income earners.
Fifty-seven years after independence, Nigeria’s housing deficit has continued to rise, leaving citizens with 17 million units accommodation shortage, according to United Nations’ (UN) statistics.
Despite the huge deficit, rural – urban migration has remained high with nearly 50 per cent of the population living in urban areas today as against just 10 per cent in 1952 and 38 per cent in 1993. This rapid growth of the urban population has led to extensive slums and shanty communities.
Based on estimation, Nigeria would need to construct 740,000 housing units every year for the next 20 years to bridge housing gap. Currently, the nation can only build 100,000 units yearly, a development experts described as too low from what is needed.
They added that despite plethora of policies, low income earners were yet to be catered for despite abundant vacant luxury houses in major cities.
But challenges such as poor funding, absence of long-term funds, institutional bottlenecks, high cost of land and building materials, policy inconsistencies, low purchasing power, lack of access to land, poor mortgage system and absence of political will by the government have been blamed continuously since independence for the widening housing deficit.
From the first National Development Plan (NDP) 1962-1968, which led to the creation of three regional housing corporations in line with the political division of the country to second NDP-1970-74, the emphasis of government has always been on provision of housing directly or indirectly to citizens.
According to a former President of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Mr Emeka Eleh, the second national development plan that covered the period 1970 – 74 delivered little houses.
He said: “Thereafter, the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) was created and emphasis was placed on credit schemes for the development of individual houses. Despite the laudable objectives set out, only 10,500 units of houses were constructed all over the country as against the 59,000 units projected.”
The third NDP, which covered the period 1975 – 80, saw housing as a social service. This led to the creation of the Federal Ministry of Housing and Environment and also establishment of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN).
Besides, the Land Use Decree (now Act) No. 6 of 1978 was also promulgated to make land readily available to all Nigerians. Out of a target of 200,000 housing units set for this period, according to Eleh, only 32,000 units were completed.
The 4th National Development Pan (1980 – 85) also came. The period from 1983 – 90 deemphasised direct government construction of houses and was characterised by spiraling cost of building materials as a result of the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) by the Federal Government.
Corroborating Eleh, Principal Partner, Kola Akomolede and Company, Chief Kola Akomolede, said that the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) built FESTAC Town, Lagos, whose name was derived from the Festival of Arts and Culture hosted by Nigerian in 1977.
“The FHA went further to build more houses at the Satellite Town in Lagos and some in Maitama and Asokoro in Abuja,” he said, adding that the first attempt to have a resemblance of a national housing programme was during the administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari between 1979 and 1983.
According to him, Shagari embarked on a very bold and ambitious housing scheme of building houses in all local government headquarters of the country, but was later marred with politics and corruption “as the contracts were given to political supporters, who have no experience in construction. Many of them saw the money given them as reward for their political support.”
Worried by poor homeownership among Nigerians, the Federal Government, in 1991, promulgated the National Housing Policy.
The policy was followed in 1992 with the National Housing Fund (NHF) to provide long-term funds for contributors to own their homes.
Twenty years later, the National Housing Policy 2012 laid emphasis on the introduction of mass housing for Nigerians of all income levels. The policy introduced the concept of social housing for the ‘poorest of the poor.’
Eleh said that the main reasons for the failure of past efforts at housing delivery were similar to the reasons for the failures in the overall economy, blaming them on corruption with its attendant over pricing of government contracts, poor supervision, poor planning, lack of fiscal discipline, lack of vital statistics as to the exact housing needs, among others.
Eleh and Akomolede listed lack of long term funds, Land Use Act, poor infrastructural development of the country, high cost of building materials, high import dependence of the sector, poor construction methods, poor development of the nations’ capital market, poor development of the nations’ mortgage and insurance industries as impediments to housing delivery in the country 57 years after.
Others include lack of vital statistics and poor state of public private partnership arrangements at the state and federal levels.
Reeling out more challenges, President, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Ugochukwu Chime, included unfavorable government policies, inadequate financial support, house prices rising much faster than wages, bureaucratic and expensive land registration and building approval process, coupled with irrepressible fall of naira.
While the FMBN is said to be underperforming, the effect of the newly created Mortgage Refinance Company of Nigeria is yet to be felt.
Briefing the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development in Abuja recently, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, disclosed that construction had commenced in 33 states of the federation for the pilot project of NHP.
He said: “Apart from the artisans, it might interest you to also know that 653 contractors were engaged in the pilot scheme to deliver 2,736 units. A total of 54,680 people were employed in the process.”
The target of NHP is to build one million houses yearly across the country.
Besides, the Federal Government has also introduced different programmes ranging from National Housing Fund, Family Housing Fund to Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) programme and the newly initiated Nigeria Housing Fund Programme (NHFP) to douse the tension of housing finance and affordability.
The Family Housing Fund is a programme under Federal Government’s Social Investment Fund where N100 billion has been set aside for it.
The minister said the FHA and FMBN have been repositioned to support homeownership among low-income Nigerians.
According to Fashola, FMBN will continue to deepen participation in the NHF to form a reliable pool of funding from, which it lends money to contributors by way of mortgage loans to acquire houses.
Housing professionals made some suggestions to the Federal Government in its drive to bridge the housing gap and increase home ownership among Nigerians irrespective of their income brackets.
Eleh, a Lagos based estate surveyor and valuer, urged the Federal Governments to pursue its land reform agenda vigorously and register all land in the country to give land owner ssecured titles.
He said: “The National Assembly should take steps to pass the executive bill sent to it with regards to the review of the consent provisions of the Land Use Act. There is no doubt that this provision is one of the greatest impediments in our land administration system.“
While awaiting the passage of the bill, he tasked the state governments to simplify and lessen the cost of obtaining consent to land transactions in their territories to facilitate ease of doing business.
Akomolede called on the government to invest massively in infrastructure development in order to lessen the cost of new homes, increase living standards, reduce the cost of land and encourage people to live outside the cities.
“Effort should also be made to reduce interest rates to single digit to make housing loans affordable and attractive,” Akomolede and Eleh said.
As part of looking ahead and as a way of reducing the cost of new houses especially for low income earners, the government should engage in subsidies for them by making land available at no cost to developers to construct low income houses in select areas to be managed by local government authorities.
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