By Emmanuel Addeh
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, yesterday contended that building low-cost houses for Nigerians was no longer viable because the components that go into the construction of houses are not cheap.
Speaking in an interview on Arise Television, the broadcast arm of THISDAY newspapers, the minister argued that what the federal government can do to make houses affordable is to create the right environment for the industry by working out right policies.
The former Lagos State governor maintained that every decision taken in the sector now has to be driven by hard data with adherence to market segmentation, rather than the blanket manner it was done in the past.
Fashola opined that some houses built by the President Shehu Shagari administration in the 80s in the north have been left unoccupied because no survey was carried out as to the taste of those who needed the houses.
“If you want low cost housing, where are the low cost land, low cost cement, low cost doors and low cost labour to deliver low cost housing?
“We must be very careful. Are we a socialist state, where government owns everything? If we are, but can you build a house without land?
“You have never heard me say anything about low-cost housing because there’s no low-cost land. What the government can do is to make the houses affordable and dignified,” he said.
He described as outrageous some data pushed out by some individuals and groups on the housing sector, saying Nigerians talk a lot about affordability without talking about acceptability.
“Because acceptability is also connected, if I build a house that’s too small, even though you can afford it, you won’t like it.
“In the past, people did not occupy some of the houses because it was different from what they wanted. In the north, bungalows are the in-thing as opposed to blocks of flat. We had seen them reject houses that were built during the Shagari era.
“There’s one like that in Adamawa or Taraba State, and it’s still there like that. So, if you want to give the people something, you must do a survey on what they want, you don’t just prescribe.
“So, when all brands come to the market, they do surveys. We are now building what our survey showed us in 34 states. If we can sell them at affordable prices, then it will become the standard. The government can then help through its fiscal and monetary policies.
“Fiscal policies such as providing support for the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) and monetary policy like working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on issues of interests and so on, and in the realm of fiscal; how to build related industries-cement and doors manufacturing companies,” he posited.
However, Fashola disclosed that the FMBN had issued over 5,000 mortgages and home refurbishment loans to over 40,000 persons in the last five years, adding that a lot more had been issued in decades before this administration