By Seriki Adinoyi
The federal government has expressed handicap in the area of improving access to affordable housing for Nigerians, especially in the face of Covid-19 pandemic, explaining that majority of houses available for sale or rent belong to individuals and private companies.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, noted this Friday at the 9th edition of the National Council meeting on Lands, Housing and Urban Development with the theme “Housing Delivery in Covid-19 Era and Beyond: The Strategies for Affordability and Accessibility.”
Fashola said: “So far, in the areas of housing, what the federal government can do directly is limited compared to what states can do, and state governments are also limited, compared to what private sector and individuals can do; the majority of houses available for sale or rent belong to individuals and private companies compared to what states or federal government has available. Therefore, many of the tenants who owe rent, who face eviction or who seek to rent or buy property are dealing with private citizens or companies and less so with government agencies.”
The minister therefore appealed to private companies and individuals to give back some of what they control to citizens in the way that the Federal Government of Nigeria has given back to citizens some of what it controls to alleviate troubles associated with access and affordability to housing in the Covid-19 Era.
“For example, in cases where rent of businesses or individuals are due for renewal, the private landlords can give back, by accepting monthly, quarterly or half-yearly rent instead of one, two or three years rent in advance. The risk of defaults can be secured by Bank Guarantees or Insurance Bonds provided by the tenant. Where rent has fallen into arrears, it is possible to emulate what FGN did through the CBN to reschedule payment on loans, by re-scheduling the payment for the tenant to more affordable terms instead of pursuing eviction.
“Notably, all of these are matters of voluntary action by property owners and a matter of conscience. And perhaps the question to ask is whether we can do for ourselves or give to one another what we ask government to do for us or give to us. Beyond voluntary action, there is state intervention which can facilitate access and affordability. As I have earlier pointed out, properties are not necessarily inaccessible or unaffordable because of the price alone, but more often because of the mode of payment. For example, a N10 million flat would probably be affordable and accessible if payment is spread over 5 to 10 years as against having to be paid at once. The same would be one for renting a N2 million per annum house if payment were made monthly in arrears or six-month in advance, as against paying three-year rent (amounting to N6m) in advance. These are some of the biggest hurdles that confront our people in almost all states.
“It is therefore my candid recommendation to this council to consider intervention by way of recommending a legislation that limits how such advance rent can be demanded or paid for renting accommodation. The sanction for non-compliance is that this would be a self-enforcing legislation in that the state apparatus such as the courts would not help any party to such a contract get relief as it would be a patently illegal contract,” Fashola said.
He also recommended the rapid deployment of cooperative housing such that cooperative members can choose what they want and therefore design and build to fit their own individual and group budget. Cooperatives can leverage their members to get group discount for purchase of building materials and the engagement of contractors to build.
Also speaking, the Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong, said the state has done a lot to help alleviate the problems associated with housing including approval of 50% discount on all land related charges in the state from 2016 to date.
“This has seen many people also taking advantage of the opportunity to formalise their land documentation thereby allowing us to generate the relevant data that gives us a better picture of property in the state.
“For investors willing to acquire land for industries and other businesses, we have established a One-Stop-Investment Centre to cut the red tapes hindering land acquisition. To ensure that we eliminate risks in land administration and increase investor confidence, we have also signed into law the anti-land grabbing bill that will deter people from sharp practices in land management.
“The government has equally provided land as its counterpart contribution to major housing projects being undertaken by the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, Family Homes and the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing. All these are geared towards increasing housing delivery in the state,” he said.