Since 2018, Metro and Castle, a real estate company, has been committed to closing the housing deficit in Nigeria with affordable and hassle-free options for Nigerians, especially those in the diasporas. Adekunle Abdul, managing director of the real estate firm, speaks to Obinna Emelike on the feats of the firm, including its 200 units target, what drives patronage, challenges, high cost of land and building materials, and expectations from the government, among others.
What is Metro and Castle all about?
Metro and Castle is a real estate company established to provide solution to the housing deficit in the country. We are based in Lagos at Metro Estate, Abraham Adesanya, Lekki Aja, Lagos. The company was conceived out of the frustration of many Nigerians in the diaspora, who had been severally defrauded by fake real estate developers.
The idea of Metro Group was conceived in 2018. The ultimate goal is to provide conducive environment for people with every necessary facility and infrastructure in housing.
We also bridge the gap created by the fraudulent engineering developers. We bridge the gap to make Nigerians abroad invest their resources in Nigeria with peace of mind. We began training in 2018. Our first 5 years was to provide 300 housing units and 3 retail outlets. We have a metropolis, which is retail. We are doing community development like super market and sports complex.
How much is the cost of building currently?
The cost of land is the real driving factor that determines the price of houses. Here at Abraham Adesanya, Lekki Aja, Lagos, the cost of land and building are the same. Actually, the cost of houses has gone up due to the determinant factors I have mentioned.
Who are your target customers and are the low-income earners included?
We provide affordable houses for the middle-class. We listen to the market to find out what consumers want and build for them. We carry out research to get the necessary information before we embark on a design.
As at the time we came here in 2018, the cost of land was N1 million. The low-income earners could afford land then. But currently, the costs of land and building materials have gone up astronomically. So, we build for middle-class.
How far are you in accomplishing your 300 housing units project?
We have been able to accomplish at least 80 percent of our 300 housing unit benchmark. We would have completed it 100 percent, but for the Covid-19 pandemic that disrupted many business activities across the world. Out of the 300 housing units, we have achieved 200 units as at today, including two functional retail outlets.
What other facilities are on offer at Metro Estate?
We have a sports center, which is currently under rehabilitation and the environment of our community has become better now. Investors appreciate the quality of our development here. We are fortunate to have very high-profile sportsmen to invest in Metro Homes. We have a number of footballers who bought houses here. Ahmed Musa of the Super Eagles National Team, Olayinka Peters, among others, are some of the investors. We are going to have three sports pitches.
What is your next project and target in the next five years?
This is our 5th year since we moved into this environment, providing affordable houses. We are transiting into the next phase of our development in 5 years to come. We are hoping to work towards 500 housing units in 5 years time.
What is your definition of affordable housing?
When we came here in 2018, land was cheap and it was affordable to even salary earners. But currently the price of land has gone up together with building materials. These factors determine the cost of housing in the real estate.
We struggle to offer good prices to our customers and we struggle with financial institutions as they have not gotten it right because of the high interest rate of 20 percent or more. The government should come up with a policy that will enable people without access to funding get loans to buy houses.
In your view, what drives investors to do business with Metro Homes?
It is because of the trust investors, especially Nigerians in the Diasporas, have in Metro Homes. We carry out due diligence to ensure compliance with the government policies, rules and regulations in housing. We do not have single litigation or a policy or court case because we always do the right.
We stick to our word. Our customers have access to the management. We have a consumer-finance structure, whereby Nigerians abroad or home can buy houses and pay by installments.
For Metro and Castle, we have the capacity to build 1,000 or even 2,000 housing units in one year. But we are conscious of the sensibility of the market we are in, we are careful not to undo things to ensure we are in business.
What is the employment capacity of the real estate?
The real estate is a very big industry and foreign exchange earner for the government. At least, 50 percent of Nigerians in the Diasporas domiciled in the United Kingdom, the United States buy house from Metro Homes.
How do you pay back to the society?
We have done a number of CSR for host community. We have transformed the Metro Homes estate strategically by working with the local people resident here. We have empowered some people with shuttle buses and tricycles. We have even set up block industry for some people.
When we had the issue of EndSARS invading all the environment and locality, the came here, but the local here stood up against them. They did not allow them to cross our main-gate. The locals here see what we are doing for them and would not want to lose the values.
Our primary goal is to ensure that our immediate community here is conducive and attractive to investors.
What are your major challenges?
The cost of land and building materials are our major challenge. The prices of goods are increasing everyday in Nigeria. Definitely, they impact on our business and it determines our price values for selling our products – houses. The dollar rate is a challenge. Diesel is a determinant of transportation. Another major challenge is funding. The 20 percent interest rate is a big factor.
How eco-friendly is Metro Estate in terms of greenhouse emission?
I will say that Nigeria has the best weather for eco-friendly business. However, the cost of putting up the equipment drives up the cost of houses. Imagine the cost of solar-generated estate. Solar power is costly and the government should assist here. We are open to solar power (inverter) and they are very expensive.
What would be your advice to the Minister of Housing, if you have the opportunity of meeting him?
I want the government to strengthen the consumers. There is need for housing budget. Economies of scale – demand and supply should aim to empower the developers and consumers. So, there is need to boost the purchasing power of the consumers. The government needs to intervene with friendly policies to favor to people on housing. The real estate market is huge and government should create a good framework for things to work in the industry.
Do you have issues with the fifth columnists- the ‘Omoniles’?
We do due diligence in our business and comply with all the government directives. All our documents are approved and authenticated by the government. We have approved master plan. We have property lawyers on real estate; they work with all the relevant government agencies on housing to ensure our estates are safe and secure.