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Assessing housing sector

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Sixty years on, stakeholders in the housing sector insist that except flexible and innovative solutions are embraced in tackling the housing challenges, there may not be any noticeable change in the sector. They also canvass standardisation and public-private partnerships in achieving sustainable housing for all, Okwy Iroegbu–Chikezie reports.

The nation has been bedeviled by  challenges in the housing sector, leading to claims of about 20 million deficit.

This figure has, however, been contested by various groups, which insist that it is not in tandem with  reality.

Some argue that the figure is not reflective of the actual number of Nigerians in need of shelter. This argument is based on the belief that developers have continued to build for the category that is not in need of housing – building luxury apartments when low cost houses are required.

Arising from this, operators are united on a common belief – articulation and implementation of several government housing policies that litter the real estate sector.

No doubt, the nation has tinkered with policies to make the housing sector viable, but operators insist that fresh ideas, quality standards, competitive policies  and innovative solutions, including ensuring land liberalisation, are perhaps the panacea to the  sector’s myriad of challenges and the housing gap.

Chief Executive Officer, Octo5 Holdings Limited, Babajide Odusolu, called for intensive awareness that would lead to the elimination of  substandard housing. He noted that it was a major issue in the sector. He said the campaign would boost qualitative affordable mass shelters which would bridge the huge deficit.

Odusolu, who spoke while delivering a lecture entitled: “Housing in Nigeria: 60 years and still counting,” in Lagos, gave a history of evolution of Nigerian cities and made comparisons as well as lessons learnt from various housing development modules.

The event also coincided with the launch of STOW- a real estate app to facilitate the provision of affordable mass housing for workers.

According to him, the low-cost housing model of a former Governor of Lagos State, Lateef Jakande, has remained the most successful in the state, adding that the roads constructed by Jakande’s administration between 1979 and 1983 were still opening up new cities.

He said Nigeria was not a poor country but had low-income earners living in substandard houses and they commute long hours daily to their business districts to eke a living.

According to him, substandard housing and ignorance of how to access low interests housing financial opportunities were some of the factors responsible for the over three million  housing shortfalls in Lagos State alone.

He urged the government to realise its inadequacies in handling housing shortfalls and the need for it to collaborate with private developers. Such collaboration, it is believed, would help Nigerians to change their heavy consumption mindsets to embracing investments in homes.

“Unfortunately, 80 per cent of Nigerians spend their incomes on consumption and that has to change through this kind of awareness we are doing by bringing all the stakeholders together. Without private sector involvement,  there will be no housing in Nigeria. In the last three years,  all  states owned housing agencies combined in Nigeria built less than 10,000 houses, and  in the same period, private sector had delivered 100,000,’’ he said.

He added that COVID-19 had exposed the dangers of substandard housing for the workers, adding that this should be treated like a security issue to improve the living conditions of the citizens.

Odusolu said his organisation was committed to partnering mortgage institutions and other stakeholders to deliver quality and  affordable mass shelters to workers, at near single digit interest rates, and leveraging its newly-launched real estate.

However, he commended the Federal Government and state governments for creating policies that empower mortgage institutions, developers and other agencies to build affordable homes across the nation. He said STOW platform would address homebuyers’concerns which had impeded real estate investments in the past.

According to him, STOW is a web and app-enabled home purchase platform for off-plan and new-build homes provided by proven real estate developers.

The Managing Director of the Federal Mortgage Bank (FMBN), Ahmed Musa Dangiwa, called on operators to work with the government in providing affordable housing, as housing remained a major contributor to the economy.

He said the sector was still an emerging market and a reflection of the nation’s economic development. He affirmed that the country was running on housing deficit against what it had guaranteed and that the government as well as the private sector needed to come on board to do more.

According to him, the government  should allow more private establishment to partner the FMBN in providing houses for the citizens. He stressed that despite having other government housing agencies, the private sector should be encouraged to invest in and be given access to funds.

He further asked relevant institutions to review and amend obsolete laws to improve access to land and mortgages, stating that the Land Use Act had been in use since the 1970s without amendment.

Ahmad called on the leaders to start seeing housing as part of economic development that is of benefit to the government. He said: “The government has to ensure that the private sector is provided with the needed environment while the government should give the regulatory frame work. Our leaders must start thinking that housing is an economic development that would assist the government. It is better the government comes on board and start thinking how to strengthen some institutions in the sector in terms of leveraging them to access fund, not only through the government but through private partnership.”

A former consultant to the World Bank/IFC on Land Reforms, Housing Finance, Urban Renewal and Doing Business in Nigeria,  Ali Mohammed Magashi,  also called on stakeholders to synergise towards accelerating the provision of housing for all. He called on the government to be more committed to the housing sector, which he described as the largest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), stating that unimpressive results have been achieved in the sector.

Magashi explained that what Nigeria needed was institutional infrastructure. According to him,  considering the importance of housing, and its benefits of creating jobs, it should be given serious attention by the government.

He added: “Housing is a macroeconomic infrastructure for the government. There has to be a deliberate commitment by governments to develop the primary mortgage market and to link the primary mortgage market to the capital market. So, second key players in this country are no secondary players should be encouraged.”

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