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NIGERIA: Experts seek multi-faceted approach to housing

The widely held view among built environment professionals is that the government has no business in direct housing production. To these experts, the government should only provide the enabling environment and allow individuals and the private sector to go into direct housing production.

But with the high cost of funds in the country, the absence of a viable mortgage sector and the housing deficit estimated at over 16 million housing units, these built environment experts seem to be shifting their position. According to them, a crisis situation would require  radical and result oriented measures to solve hence government should now play a major role in housing production especially for the vulnerable or weakest link.

Giving further insight into why estate surveyors who have always held the view that the private sector is better equipped to provide housing, are backing the social housing scheme of the Federal Government, the President of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, NIESV, Mr. Emeka Eleh in a recent interview, explained that it will guarantee equitable distribution of housing and ensure that every Nigerian is properly housed.Emrald-house

His words: “We believe that if you are talking of housing for all in this country, there is no way there won’t be a social housing component. The Federal Housing Authority, FHA was meant to provide social housing. That is not the case anymore because most of the houses are overpriced. You cannot  have an equitable society without providing for those who don’t have and that is where social housing comes in. All the government needs is to follow what they have done before. If FHA was meant to provide social housing, then it should allow FHA or grant them the enablement to provide housing at a cost that is manageable”

Continuing, the NIESV boss noted that although estate surveyors and valuers believe that housing is better driven by the private sector, they “also appreciate the fact that to enable equitable distribution of these housing to ensure that everybody is housed, there must be an element of social housing that would be encouraged by the government”.

He further buttressed his arguments with examples. “ In England, we have the Council flats, every where, you have all manner of social housing component. If all the local government areas which are nearer to the people can say, every year, we will add 100 units, if that had been done in the past ten years, it means that these LGAs would have added 1,000 housing units to their LGAs. Because these LGAs are closer to the people, they would be in a better position to allocate the houses to those who need them on a social basis So, we believe in social housing because it will ultimately lead to a more equitable society where everybody has a home and nobody is under the bridge,” he said.

His predecessor. Mr Bode Adediji also supported government’s direct intervention in housing production. “The people who feel that government should not be seen to be directly involved in production of housing say so because it is on record that the house you and I will build for one Naira, an average government agency will build it for ten Naira – the same market, the same raw materials and the same manpower.

However, when you have a crisis of this nature in your hand, I would be the first person to say that let us all forget the past and team up to deliver houses, whether you are a government agency or private because if you look at what it takes to empower the private sector to perform,” he told Vanguard Homes & Property in a previous interview..

“It is only a government that has a vision and the political will to implement that vision that can deliver mass housing. That is the truth. People like us can only participate in a very limited sector of the housing for the upper class and the lower class. If you are looking for companies that will make great impact on the housing delivery system to the down trodden people, you must begin to think about the economy of scale and the financial system that is long-term in approach , not short term. You have to look at other issues.

“Business environment is not like a bed of roses. When you run into a storm, what is your immediate fallback position? In this country today, if anybody engages in mass housing production and he runs into a stormy cloud, he has no fallback position. In other climes, the mortgage insurance backup is there for him, government grant is there for him. In this country, a patriotic company that has the economy of scale, the technical skill to deliver mass housing to the people, if he runs into a technical and financial storm, he has zero backup position,” he posited.

Another Lagos-based estate surveyor and valuer, Mr Stephen Jagun, however stuck to his guns, insisting that government has no business in direct construction of houses. He called on government to open up far-flung areas by providing infrastructures such as roads, water and electricity.

The former Secretary of NIESV in Lagos declared: “If the Government builds more roads to open up places like Ikorodu, Epe, Badagry, Mowe, you will be shocked by the number of houses that will spring up in these areas in the next two years.

“In some of these places, people have bought land but are not building because they are looking for who will be the first to create the roads. Look at the areas where the Lagos state government is doing roads, people have bought old houses and are in the process of rebuilding. The value of properties in such areas have gone up”.

Jagun who is an apostle of sites and service schemes, posited that although people have bought virtually all the land about ten kilometres after Ajah, they are not building yet, because of the dearth of infrastructure.

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