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Housing Shortage And Government’s Failed Promises

Chukwuma Okparaocha

Recently, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Ms Ama Pepple, roused the hornets’ nest by declaring that housing could not come cheap as a result of the high cost of land acquisition.

This was, however, against the expectations of millions of Nigerians who have been groping for years under the weight of homelessness and mass housing shortage which experts have succinctly put at 16 million units.

She had indicated that the high cost of housing delivery in the country was due to huge funds that were involved in land purchase. She also defended the right of every individual in the country to own any house provided such individual could afford it.

“Though we are pressing for the low income earners, we will not stop people building houses for the higher income group. We will continue to press for low income earners. Those who also buy expensive houses are Nigerians, if they can afford the money; I cannot stop them from buying houses,” she stated.

But anyone who has been following various governments’ policies would agree that in the last few years, governments had made policies as regard housing provision for the citizenry, sadly, the lion share of such policies have remained a mirage. For instance, many low cost housing estates built in the 70’s and 80’s by the administration of an ex-governor of Lagos State, Lateef Jakande, are now in total shambles as evident in the current state of many of their buildings. This has been ascribed to government’s neglect which has ultimately led to infrastructural decay. Only recently, a two story building collapsed at the Isolo/Oke Afa Jakande Estate. The development, needless to say, exposed the deplorable state of many of the houses in the estate which made the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) to mark about six of them as unsafe for human habitation.

In December 2011, the Minister of Housing, Ama Pepple, had declared that the Federal Government was set to embark on a new scheme called the Cooperative Housing Scheme which was aimed at providing low cost housing for middle income earners, especially for those in the informal sector of the economy.

However, after almost two years, nothing has yet been heard about the policy, and many industry players have nursed the fear that the policy would go the way of many others which have been forgotten.

Similarly, the Federal Government announced the injection of a sum of N200 billion into housing development through the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), but several months after, the housing sector is still far from reaping any benefit of such a huge largesse.

In a recent chat with the Property and Environment, the Chairman of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Lagos State branch, Mr Olusola Fatoki, argued that the housing sector is vital to the economic development of the country, and hence should be of priority to the government.

“The housing sector is the major custodian of the nation’s economy. It is a sector that accounts for the highest employer of labour,” he said. He opined that while it may not be possible for the government to build houses for everyone, it still has the responsibility of reducing housing shortage.

“It may not be possible to provide houses for everybody, but there must be incentives or housing affordability. That is what we have been trying to advise the government, because for people to have houses there must be easy access to land. Land acquisition must be made easily available,” he stated.

Similarly, the immediate past president of NIESV, Mr Bode Adediji, said “My advice is that no matter how big a problem is, if there is political will on the part of the ruling class and the population in general, the problem can be surmounted.

“We should take actions that are fundamental and crucial to the execution of projects that would assist us in meeting those targets. That should be what government should be concerned with,” he stated.

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