Not yet affordable housing in real estates despite high promises

The housing sector of any country can mar or boost the economy, depending on the manner government wants to run its policies.It is instructive that there is a lot of obvious difference in the way the government accords its priorities on the different sector of the economy.But no matter how an administration looks at housing, it remains a fundamental human right, as enshrined in the United Nations Habitat Agenda and universally accepted as the second most important human need.

Besides, the housing sector has traditionally played a central role in the economic life of nations and is the bedrock of the economy in more advanced economies like the United States of America, Great Britain and Canada, where the sector contributes between 30per cent and 70per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Also, investments in housing account for 15 to 35 per cent of aggregate investment worldwide and employ approximately 10 per cent of labour force worldwide. Also, homeownership is an accepted measure of household wealth and GDP, while the standard of housing is an indicator of effective economic development and standard of living in a nation.

Housing, through property taxes, is a significant contributor to local government finance and thereby to the provision of essential services, such as water, sanitation, transportation and education.

The traditional property tax base is the market value of the property, as housing prices rise and property assessments rise. The tax base is further strengthened by new construction. The typical contribution of residential properties to the municipal tax base is 43 per cent.The sector also has the potential to generate employment, increase productivity and alleviate poverty. It has the capacity to reduce crime rate, insurrections, militancy, and terrorism and substantially address wealth distribution as well as security concerns.

It is able to achieve this because investment in housing affects all facets of life through its multiplier effect on economic development by forward linkages to the financial markets and backward linkages to land, building materials, tools, furniture and Labour markets.After 59 years of independence, several efforts to address the housing situation by successive governments in Nigeria have yielded limited success over the years. Today, the nation is estimated to have a total housing deficit of 17-23 million units, though the current demand is estimated at 37 million houses.

Apart from the fact that Nigerians have been disadvantaged in producing accurate, reliable figures and statistic of endeavours, the rather lukewarm attitude of government in combating the problem of housing has not been helpful.After Independence, emphasis was placed on the five-yearly development plans as the vehicle for economic growth. The housing sector however suffered complete neglect in the first two plans. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1967, the housing situation fell into complete neglect and deteriorated further. In 1971, the National Council on Housing consisting of all State Commissioners responsible for housing was established.

This marked the first significant and direct attempt by the Federal Government to intervene positively in the area of housing. It led in 1972 to the establishment of a National Housing Programme during the second National Development Plan period. Through an enabling decree, the Federal Government intended to construct 59,000 dwelling units with 15,000 in Lagos and 4,000 units in each of the other eleven State Capitals. The Federal Housing Authority was created in 1973 to co-ordinate this nation-wide programme.

The Third National Development Plan (1975-1980) contained the most significant statement of the Government in the housing sector. The Federal Government decided to participate directly and actively in the provision of housing, rather than leaving it principally to the private sector.A total of N2.6billion was earmarked for the implementation of the various projects. During this period, a total of 202,000 dwelling units were programmed for construction, comprising 50,000 units in Lagos and 8,000 units in each of the other nineteen States. It is pertinent to note that by the end of the plan period, less than 15 per cent of the houses had been completed.

The turning point in housing happened in 1978, when land administration in Nigeria was vested on state governors through the Land Use Act of 1978. The Governor is empowered to issue statutory Certificates of Occupancy.Despite the intention of the Land Use Act of 1978 to ensure access by governments to develop land when required and curb land speculation, it has not been able to facilitate easy access to land by individuals, while the vesting of control over land in urban areas in the State Governor has effectively limited the roles played by local governments in such areas of their administration.

The increasing deficit of urban housing as well as its continuous deterioration in the rural areas dictated the high priority rating given to housing by the defunct civilian administration. An elaborate National Housing Programme was embarked upon in 1980 based on the concept of affordability and citizen participation.

The contribution of the building and construction sector to total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Nigeria, which was four per cent in 1981, decreased to 2.08 per cent in 2011 but was estimated at eight per cent with the redenomination of the computation of GDP in 2013. According to the National Housing policy, a major drawback in the past attempts at housing and urban development sectors and in the establishment of sustainable housing delivery systems, and efficient urban development and management in Nigeria was the absence of clear focus in the pursuit of the mandate of the ministry.

The multifaceted and multidisciplinary nature of the ministry coupled with the roles in regulation of standards, prescription codes and such other measures put the Ministry on collision path with other Federal Government agencies. Also the non-involvement of stakeholders and near exclusion of the private sector investors in housing and service delivery robbed the sector of necessary competition and efficiency needed for stability.However, the inability of governments alone to fund the provision of housing and urban development left a big vacuum and massive need which could not be met in the sector.

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