By Emmanuel Addeh
The federal government is exploring ways to ‘unlock’ the millions of unoccupied buildings in urban centres across the country, Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has said.
Although affordable and accessible housing remains a major challenge in major cities, especially in Abuja, many of the buildings are not occupied, prompting recent reports that the federal government was planning to lease them.
However, Fashola debunked the news that the houses will be forcibly sold or leased, saying the government was only trying to encourage big house owners to break them into small units to enable people rent or buy them so that the owners can make income from them.
Speaking during the virtual commemoration of the 2020 World Habitat Day (WHD) celebration with the theme: ”Housing for all: A better Urban Future”, the minister assured of the government’s commitment to deliver on its housing promises despite the prevailing challenges within the sector.
He acknowledged the adverse effect the COVID-19 pandemic was having on an already difficult situation in the housing sector, but said the government will improve access to affordable housing, mobility, sanitation, jobs and socio economic opportunities despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“The approach for implementing this is multifaceted. This ranges from house refurbishment loans to mortgages with reduced service conditions, direct housing construction, improved speed of titling and issuance of documents.
“There are also plans underway to unlock unused properties as well as accelerate advocacy for reduced rent demands.
“The federal government is committed to delivering housing that is obtainable, healthy, inclusive and adequate, safe and affordable. This is the key to sustainable and transformation of societies and communities,” Fashola said.
He further disclosed that to relieve citizens, President Muhammadu Buhari had recently initiated the development of an Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) of N2.3 trillion to improve payroll support, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) collateral fund, loan re-strengthening for businesses, industries support and agricultural support.
The minister added that the government will continue to strengthen partnership with the private sector and other government agencies at all levels to effectively deliver on the mandate.
Speaking earlier, the Permanent Secretary, at the ministry, Mr. Ernest Umakhihe said that the world habitat day was day set aside to focus on the state of human settlements and the basic rights for all for adequate shelter.
Umakhihe said the celebration would be wrapped up with the observance of the World Cities Day on 31st of October 2020 with the focal theme: “Better Cities, Better Life and a sub-theme: “Valuing Our Communities and Cities