Appraising Housing Delivery in Nigeria

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Babatunde Raji Fashola

With poor administration and inadequate funding identified as problems of implementing the national housing policies in Nigeria, Adedayo Adejobi writes on policies and strategies for housing delivery in Nigeria, especially as it concerns attainment of sustainable development goals

Housing is a crucial basic need of every human being just as food and clothing. It is very fundamental to the welfare, survival and health of the man. Hence, housing is one of the best indicators of a person’s standard of living and his place in the society. The location and type of housing can determine or affect the status of man in the society. Shelter is central to the existence of man, and it involves access to land, and the necessary amenities to make same functional, convenient, aesthetically pleasing, safe and hygienic. Hence, unsanitary, unhygienic, unsafe and inadequate housing can affect the security, physical health and privacy of man. Invariably, the performance of the housing sector is one of the yardsticks by which the health of a nation is measured.

Nigeria, presently ranks as the 31st largest economy in the world by GDP (397,472 million US$). The top 10 countries by GDP (nominal) in the world are: United States, China, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, India, Italy, Brazil, and Canada. The Human Development Index (HDI) shows in 2012 that Nigeria is ranked 156 with the value of 0.459 among 187 countries. As of 2015, Nigeria’s HDI is ranked 152nd at 0.514. The comparative value for Sub-Saharan Africa is 0.475, 0.910 for the US, and 0.694 for the world average.

Nigeria’s economic freedom score is 57.3, making its economy the 111th freest in the 2019 Index. Nigeria is ranked 14th among 47 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, and its overall score is above the regional average but below the world average.

The housing and construction sector, if properly administered, has the capacity to produce a tremendous multiplier effect on the broader economy of any nation through forward linkages to the financial markets and backward linkages to land, building materials, furniture and labour markets. Nigeria is estimated as of 2015 to have a housing deficit of approximately 17 million and it is projected that about N59. 5 trillion will be required to bridge the gap in this sector. Of all the challenges to the housing sector, limited access to finance stands as a major drawback requiring immediate intervention. The issue with finance is traceable to underdevelopment in our mortgage industry as it reportedly generated less than 200,000 transactions between 1960 and 2014.

According to the World Bank Report (2015), the contribution of mortgage financing to Nigeria’s GDP is close to negligible, with real estate contributing less than 5 per cent and mortgage loans and advances at 0.5 per cent of GDP.

Following the Second World War, there was an acute housing shortage and local authorities were encouraged to build as many houses as possible as quickly as possible. That was occurring because there was a lack of resale inventory as well as a lack of new construction inventory, which in turn was caused by a labour shortage, lack of housing lots and other kinds of higher construction costs.

There have been shortfall in housing deficit for a while now, but 2018 was the year where there was a really huge and noticeable effect on housing demand. Noticeably, the government accords relatively low priority to housing in their overall scheme of national development, and the volume of construction generally falls short of housing demand.

The approach to housing policy in Nigeria has tended to oscillate between the ‘welfare mixed economy’ and the ‘free market model’. The conventional wisdom today is that ‘government has no business building houses’, and that governments should focus on providing favourable investment climates, infrastructure and mortgage facilities to low-to-middle income families.

However, stronger arguments seem to justify state involvement in housing. Protagonists of this school often rationalise their stand on the premise that: housing is a necessity of life and a social right; it affects productivity (individual and national); bad housing can have negative physical and mental impact upon its occupants, and produce negative externalities on society. In addition, the workings of an unregulated competitive market cannot expect to produce outcomes which are entirely in accord with social needs and egalitarian political objectives. Hence, the government must help meet the needs of the poor, the under-privileged and those who cannot fend for themselves. The fundamental case for government intervention in housing is that market forces alone cannot ensure an adequate stock or a fair distribution of housing.

In 1961, the World Health Organisation stated that a good house should have the following items: A good roof to keep out the rain, good walls and doors to protect against bad weather and to keep out animals. Sunshades all around the house to protect it from direct sunlight in hot weather and wire nettings at windows and doors to keep out insects like house flies and mosquitoes. In essence, housing quality can be judged from the physical appearance of the buildings, facilities provided, quality of wall used in the building construction, eminence of the roofing materials, condition of other structural components of the house, and the environmental condition of the house.

Some of the problems attributable to the inadequacy of housing in terms of quality and quantity results in poor standard of the environment include of lack of amenities, poor maintenance, strained relationships between public housing residents and management, and chronic financial crisis have been mentioned as recurring themes of state-controlled, public housing.

Although housing is a universal need, its provision has assumed diverse approaches – in terms of policy instruments and institutions – in Nigeria and different parts of the world. Housing issues and policy problems are both global and inherently local-specific to a given time and place. One of the major responses to the housing challenge has been Public housing. It has taken varied forms in different geographical contexts and other descriptive terms are sometimes used in its place – such as social housing, state-housing, state-sponsored housing, welfare housing, non-profit housing, low-cost housing, affordable housing, and mass housing.

In this sense, the Nigerian Housing Policy was promulgated in 1991 in order to address housing problems. The programmes of action in the policy include construction technology, housing finance, land and infrastructure, building materials, labour management, housing allocation, monitoring and review. The big question – since the inception of this promulgation: Has Nigeria’s Housing Policy address the role of government and lived to its billing?

According to Managing Director, Pentagon Real Estate Investment Ltd, Mr. Kennedy Okoruwa, a most comprehensive housing policy should address the role of government which may vary from the planning and control of all aspects of housing production -land, investment, construction and occupancy -to intervention only at certain levels or when solutions are needed to specific problems involving such matters as land use plans and controls, credit and financial aids, subsidies to low income groups, rent control, slum clearance and re-location.’’

Highlighting housing problems which are peculiar to both rich and poor nations, as well as developed and developing countries, Managing Director, Pazino Homes and Gardens, Patrick Agbaza said: “Certain problems are associated with housing worldwide. They include shortage of housing (qualitatively and quantitatively), homelessness, government short-sightedness about the needs of the people, access to building land, house cost in relation to specification and space standard, as well as high interest rate of home loans. The reasons for shortage of housing in Nigeria include poverty, high rate of urbanisation, high cost of building materials, as well as rudimentary technology of building.’’

Although the federal and some state government intervened by providing mass housing, only the rich and the privileged can afford it. The intervention of government include the formation of federal housing authority, the establishment of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, as well as the creation of the Ministry of Housing, Urban Development and Environment. Nevertheless, in spite of government’s effort to tackle the housing problems, the Nigerian housing situation is still in crisis, and sustainable housing delivery has been seriously hampered.

In order to achieve sustainable housing delivery in Nigeria, numerous housing strategies, programmes and policies have emerged from colonial era to date. However, the United Nations declaration of ‘Housing for all by the year 2000’ geared up the formulation of the renowned Nigerian Housing Policy.

In essence, the declaration suggested that housing problem could be solved within the given time frame. Thus, in 1991, the National Housing Policy was promulgated in order to propose possible solutions to housing problems in Nigeria.

At the inception, the basic goal of the policy was to provide affordable housing to accommodate Nigerian households in liveable environment. Disgusting , however, 28 years after the promulgation of the policy, and 19 years after 2000, many Nigerians are still homeless while several others are living in indecent houses up to this time.

Housing problems abound in Nigeria, both in rural areas and urban centres. The problem in the rural areas has to do with qualitative housing while the problems in the urban centre is quantitative in nature. Housing problems in the rural areas are connected with qualitative deficiencies like place, degree of goodness and the value of the house.

On the other hand, urban housing problems include homelessness slum dwelling, squatting and overcrowding. High rate of urbanisation , ever-increasing population of urban dwellers in conjunction with the increasing social expectations of the people are all responsible for housing problems in Nigeria.

The problems of urbanisation are inadequate housing, unplanned development, improper maintenance of existing structures, aging, absence of social infrastructure, waste management menace, crime, and health hazard. Additionally, the houses in the urban core areas are characterised by inadequate infrastructural facilities, poor ventilation, non-availability of in-built toilet and kitchen, as well as poor refuse disposal system.

Other problems that are associated with urban housing are lack of effective planning, development of shanty towns, and availability of dilapidated houses.

Generally, housing in Nigeria is bombarded with problems like poverty, discrimination against the use of indigenous materials, ineffective housing finance, inadequate financial instrument for mobilisation of funds, high cost of building materials shortage of infrastructural facilities, as well as the bureaucracies in land acquisition, processing of certificate of occupancy (C of O), and approval of building plans.

Other constraints to housing development, maintenance and delivery are lack of effective planning, ineffective government programmes and policies, uncontrolled private sector participation, weak institutional frameworks and poor research and development into housing.

It is instructive to note that housing is inextricably interrelated with broader issues of inflation, income policy, and perplexing range of difficult social and economic trends. All these challenges culminate in the ever-increasing demand that cannot be met by supply.

Appraising the national housing policy, vis-à-vis the federal government’s resolve to address the housing deficit by delivering one million houses per year to close the 17 million shortfall by the year 2033, the Managing Director, Design Genre, Mr. Anthony Okoye, said: “For the future housing development in Nigeria to be sustainable, that is, constituting quality environment, meeting the needs of the dwellers, the neighbourhood, the city and the environment, it must address the following: Location, where should these new housing be located? Should they be urban infill(key in urban revitalization or be located on green sites? Density, should be high maximize infrastructure. A compact layout Mixture of uses rather than just housing. residents should be able to live, work and play in their community. Mixture of tenures and income groups.”

“For housing layouts on green site, they must have clearly defined centres, landmarks, paths and edges to help make sense of the community. An architecture that is energy efficient, functional and respectful of the context .Delivery should be through public private partnership,” Okoye added.