The state of the housing sector is one of the parameters by which the health of a nation is situated. Over the years, the Federal Government laid out programmes to address housing deficit in Nigeria, without much success.
The gap still yawns.
In fact, accessibility to affordable housing remains a mirage, particularly to the middle and lower classes.
Nevertheless, solutions are being proffered towards resolving the challenges.
To ensure the continuity of human survival, there are three basic needs that must be met; food, clothing and housing. It is the duty of the society to provide these basic needs for all, however the provision of these necessities for everyone poses a great challenge. Housing deficit is a global phenomenon and it is not in any way peculiar to Nigeria.
Over time the rural urban migration has impacted the balance of the housing industry creating an excess in the rural areas and a deficit in the urban areas.
Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), aptly described the situation saying: “In most of Nigeria’s rural areas, they don’t have housing challenges. Many Nigerians who are sweating for apartments in the city of Lagos, Aba, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kaduna, etc., probably own four–five-bedroom bungalows in their village, and the houses are empty and unused”.
The performance of the housing sector is a deciding factor in measuring the health of a nation. Similar to most developed countries, the housing sector is seen as important for stimulating economic growth.
Unfortunately, access to affordable housing has largely remained an unfulfilled dream to the vast majority of Nigerians who are particularly in the middle and the lower income class of the society.
Fashola, again at a forum suggested that Nigeria doesn’t have a 17 million or 22 million housing deficit because there is no proven data to support that statement or claim”.
He, however, acknowledged that housing challenges are an urban problem that has risen as a result of rapid urbanization, and so, there is a demand and supply issue.
The Aare Onikoyi of Yorubaland, Chief Tomori Williams, is the CEO of T.Williams Constructions Nigeria Ltd.
Chief Tomori Williams is a big brand in the Nigerian Property sector. He has carved a big niche for himself. He builds houses for people and he also helps people reclaim their properties from Squatters and illegal occupants.
He has also done more in property repossession and consultancy.
He spoke in a telephone interview with FREEDOM ONLINE on tackling housing problems in Nigeria, as he addresses challenges and ways to make housing more affordable and available to the masses.
According to him, some of the teething problems include ,housing affordability and accessibility, lump-sum payment, effect of high interest and exchange rate on housing finance, abandoned government and private properties unused, effects of salinity old buildings, difficult access to land for building, and local alternatives to imported building materials.
To this end, the Real Estate magnate called on the National Planning Commission to ensure that the next census in the country must include home ownership and home rental census.
This, he said, is because it is impossible to solve a problem that can’t be measured.
He enjoined the Ministries of Finance, Budget, and National Planning to use their fiscal and monetary policy muscles to bring down the interest and lending rates.
Said he, “Real Estate is capital intensive, hence the need to figure out how to provide affordable finance to players within the space, easing the process of accessing houses. With easy access to financing, the burden will be reduced for the end-users. And then, if flexible payment systems are introduced, affordability now becomes real.
“In addition, the states’ Houses of Assembly and the states’ Attorney Generals should initiate legislation that will make housing affordable to Nigerians.
“Furthermore, there is need for change in our building method, with special attention to the strata of our population in need of housing. Those who have purchasing power do not want four-bedroom housing, they live in small – spaces now and they carry their back-packs with their laptops and WI-FI; they use the shower, they don’t use baths.
” The government should focus on opening up the rural areas with good road networks so that the opportunities that people are coming to town to look for can be closer to them.
A lot of these solutions that estate consultants had developed, he pointed out , can be implemented to solve quite some problems through collaboration, coordination, and implementation..
While maintaining that these factors drive real estate prices and rentals through the roof, Chief Olutomori William submitted that Nigerians deserve stable and dignified housing, which is essential to human existence.
He said: “It is clear to everybody that we have serious housing deficit in the country. And if we do not do anything urgently to address it, it will not take long before the cost of accommodation will be so high, it will be difficult for Nigerians to meet up. If we want to address this problem, we must be sincere to ourselves. The challenge before us requires that government should sit up in its role and other stakeholders like estate developers and others will key in.
“Government also needs to do is to make accessibility of land easy. A situation whereby it is very difficult for estate developers to get land to develop for people to buy or rent is not the best for the country. If government makes land easy for developers to procure, more houses will be built and accommodation will be cheaper.
“Another important thing for government to do is site and services scheme, whereby government will provide basic infrastructures and the estate developer will develop the land for the masses. If this is not done without further delay, it will be difficult to achieve.
“The other part of it is, even if you make land accessible but you don’t give certificate of occupancy (C of O) to the developers, it becomes difficult to access loan from banks or even people who want to buy it, for them to access loan to be able to pay for the property, therefore, government must fast-track the issue of giving C of O to estate developers and individuals. It shouldn’t take eternity for someone to get a C of O; it’s something that can be done in a very short time.
“Another important area, which government must address, if we want to be serious is the issue of providing basic infrastructures in the layouts. Things like water and electricity should be provided to augment efforts of estate developers and builders. Government needs to perform a kind of social service role and augment whatever is being done by the industry players. By so doing, prices can be moderated.
“It is also important that we strengthen the mortgage institutions and make them more accessible to developers. It should be done in such a way that not only people working in government circles will benefit, so private individuals can easily access funds from there and buy houses. It should be structured in a way that both the rich and the low class will have access to facilities provided everyone will pay back.
On the frequency of building collapse in the country, the estate mogul who lamented on the issue said , it was embarrassing.
He blamed it on poor structural design, poor compliance with specifications/altering of design, poor quality control, improper foundation, negligence, incompetence and corruption.
The Aare Onikoyi of Yorubaland asserted that “buildings collapse most times is because of incompetence of the contractor or malicious acts on the part of the contractor whereby concrete is not properly mixed to required specifications. If the right proportion is not followed, the building is bound to collapse.
“Another thing that causes building collapse is the size of rod used. If you use it wrongly, it could lead to that. In other words, the use of materials can lead to the collapse of a building.
Another factor is faulty design. If the structural engineer did not calculate well and then gives a design where the structural element you are putting cannot carry the building, it will collapse
“Apart from improper supervising by the engineer or architect, another thing that can lead to building collapse is an act of God such as abnormal wind and earth tremor. These are above us; they are within the realm of God. But the general ones we can address are incompetent workmanship, poor building materials, poor engineering design system or reluctance on the part of the contractor to do exactly what the structural engineer has put in drawing.
“Also, the owner of the building influencing the use of poor quality materials for the construction of the house can lead to the collapse of the building. You must also bear in mind that the soil texture is also important. Even when you have done other things well, poor soil analysis can lead to building collapse.
“So, in a nutshell, the people to blame if this happens are the structural engineer, the owner of the building, the architect, if he is not supervising well, as well as the town planners who are supposed to have supervised and seen the loopholes and put them in correct shape before allowing the buildings to be constructed.
” So, it is a combination of factors and I think it’s important that all of us in the building industry sit up to avoid buildings collapsing. It’s embarrassing to see buildings collapsing and claiming lives.”
The renowned developer also frowned at the tax regime, saying that accommodation seekers bear the brunt”.