Affordable housing in Masaka, near Abuja
In the last two weeks, we have been looking at social housing from the South African perspective. We saw that the South African social housing policy, seen at a glance reveals that it is underpinned by a number of principles amongst which are that, it…
•Must promote the social, physical, and economic integration of housing development into existing urban and/or inner-city areas through the creation of quality living environments.
•Must be responsive to local housing demand.
•Must support the economic development of low income communities by ensuring that they are close to job opportunities, markets and transport and by stimulating job opportunities to emerging entrepreneurs in the housing services and construction industries.
•Must ensure the involvement of residents in the social housing institution (SHI) and/or key stakeholders in the broader environment through defined meaningful consultation, information sharing, education, training and skills transfer.
•Must ensure secure tenure for the residents in social housing institutions, on the basis of the general provisions for the relationship between residents and social housing institutions as defined in the Housing Act, and the Rental Act.
•Must support mutual acceptance of roles and responsibilities of tenants and social landlords, on the basis of the general provisions for the relationship between residents and social housing institutions as defined in the Rental Act, the Cooperatives Act, as well as in the envisaged Social Housing Act.
•Must be facilitated, supported and/or driven by all spheres of government.
•Must promote the creation of sustainable, viable and legally independent housing institutions responsible for providing and/or developing, holding and managing social housing stock.
•Must ensure transparency, accountability and efficiency in the administration and management of social housing stock.
•Must promote best practices and compliance with minimum norms and standards in relation to the delivery and management of social housing as a sector.
•Must promote the use of public funds in such a manner that stimulates and/or facilitates private sector investment and participation in the social housing sector.
•Must promote housing delivery for a range of income groups (including, inter alia, middle income, emerging middle class, working class and the poor) in such a way as to allow integration and cross-subsidisation.
•Must operate within the provisions of the Constitution, 1996, the Public Finance Management Act, 1999, the Preferential Procurement Act and other statutory procurement prescripts.
•May be implemented by social housing institutions of various legal forms.
Needless to say, one cannot expect us in Nigeria to adopt, hook-line-and-sinker the whole South African (SA) policy. There will be several environmental factors that will make some of them quite unworkable in our own environment. For instance, the very first principle, which encourages the promotion of the “social, physical, and economic integration of housing development into existing urban and/or inner-city areas through the creation of quality living environments”. To begin with, the concept of the ‘inner-city’ is a very western one; the closest one might have of such in these climes would be of ‘Isale-eko’ in Lagos where the very poor indigenes often live in slums situated on prime land. However, it beats the imagination how any of our governments might be able to integrate social housing into such an area considering the funding limitations and the tugging of powerful interests. Since social housing is not free housing, who will fund the huge affordability gap that will arise from the new high-rise developments. Even building affordable housing on the outskirts of Lagos has proved challenging enough.
There will be other principles however, that the designers of the Nigerian social housing programme can use, if only with minor modifications. This week, I would like us to take a closer look at the fourth of the underpinning principles of the South African policy and relate them to our own environment here in Nigeria. The fourth principle, states that the programme…
Must ensure the involvement of residents in the social housing institution (SHI) and/or key stakeholders in the broader environment through defined meaningful consultation, information sharing, education, training and skills transfer.
According to the SA policy, “Social housing must encourage and support residents in their efforts to fulfil their own housing needs in a way that leads to the transfer of skills and empowerment.” Democratic systems have largely been shown to add a measure of ownership to the housing process. No one knows the beneficiaries’ needs like the beneficiaries themselves, so their involvement from the inception is a sine qua non. Indeed, the experience of NGOs such as Habitat for Humanity & The Fuller Center have shown this to be so, although within the Nigerian context, a full devolvement of the ownership of any housing development must be carefully thought through, in order to fully protect the assets of the developer from rebellious elements that will undoubtedly rear their heads in the process of time. The vestiges of our military heritage are still very much with us, so a firm handling of the stakeholder involvement process is required.
In this same line, the SA policy further states that, “Education, training and information sharing must take place before occupation by residents and must be done throughout the process in such a way that residents are able to make informed decisions about their housing and protect themselves as responsible housing consumers.” A major difference between social housing and other types of housing is the inclusion of an education program; not only for the potential beneficiaries but also for implementers of the social housing programme.
Slum developments are merely a manifestation of a ‘slum’ mentality. Simply relocating residents of one slum to another place without continual requisite education, merely relocates the original slum with the people to their new dwelling place.
The Fuller Center’s Nigeria program engages potential homeowners in a 3-month education & ‘sweat equity’ program in order to fully prepare them for their new home and new life. However, many years down the line, some of the lessons earlier taught are being lost; hence the need for CONTINUAL education.
Lastly, it is the hope in all new social housing developments that its residents will eventually be able to participate in the administration and management of their housing environment. This too requires a vast amount of education and patience. Social housing is a whole new ball game. Merely being an expert builder or experienced developer does not qualify you to undertake a social housing development.
In a nutshell, the task of providing social housing for Nigeria does not stop at simply placing the superstructure on the ground, but involves the creation of new environments and new communities.
There is much more than just the physical dimension to this task. There is a social development aspect, an economic aspect and an institutional development aspect too. We are not just building new houses. We are actually building a new Nigeria.
Odia (email@example.com) is a National Director of The Fuller Center for Housing.