At 62, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and the continent’s largest economy, remains a ‘homeless’ nation.
If the country were to be a civil servant, it should have retired from active service two years ago.
That means there’s so little it can still do to provide its basic needs including housing.
The country’s dire situation, including old age and retirement status, are made worse by the grim reality that it is also broke and heavily burdened by both domestic and foreign debts.+
Though it is still a matter of debate, experts insist that Nigeria has a huge housing demand-supply gap estimated at 20 million units.
This, among other things, explains why the country and its citizens are largely homeless.
The International Human Rights Commission (IHRC), a non-political Transnational Intergovernmental Organization, affirmed recently that “Nigeria has a growing number of homeless people with its housing deficit now standing at 28 million.”
However, if improvement in architectural designs, which have given rise to iconic structures and well developed estates in the cities, is anything to go by, then Nigeria could be said to have made progress in its housing sector.
But this progress is grossly diminished by the growing deficits as well as low homeownership level and high number of renters.
With an increasing population and urbanization growth rate estimated at 4-5 percent per annum, housing stock in Nigeria remains low at between 12 and 15 million units.
Record shows that about 25 million households with six members each don’t have homes they can call their own.
A report by BusinessDay Research and Intelligence Unit (BRIU) on Nigerian Real Estate says that out of the 200 million Nigerians, only 8 million people qualify for the luxury property market.
The report adds that while there is more than enough for the luxury market, hardly any thought is spared for the remaining 192 million citizens who need just functional and affordable homes.
“At 62, Nigeria has the lowest home ownership level even among its peers. While the level is 84 percent in Indonesia, 75 percent in Kenya and 56 percent in South Africa, Nigeria has only 25 percent,” Johnson Chukwuma, a civil engineer and estate manager, lamented.
Taking it further, Chukwuma noted that, as against 72 percent home ownership level in the US, 78 percent in UK, 60 percent in China; 54 percent in South Korea and 92 percent in Singapore, homeownership level in Nigeria, 62 years after independence, remains what it is at 25 percent.
He doubted if this situation would improve any time soon given the state of the economy and lack of seriousness by the government with the housing sector.
“Inflation, high exchange rate and the ridiculously high cost of money have made investment in housing a huge risk,” he said, pointing out that the cost of building materials is a major disincentive to investment in the housing sector.
Chukwuma gave a big knock on the present government which promised to deliver one million housing units every year but has not been able to do one million in seven years.
He cited Lagos, the country’s commercial nerve centre with a population estimated at 20 million which, according to a report, over 60 percent of this population lives in rented accommodation, while about 86 percent of the housing stock in the city is funded from household income.
Though he agrees with the government’s failure in the housing sector, Olubode Odunayo, a certified realtor, noted that post independence governments showed commitment to housing development.
He recalled further that “Nigeria made some giant strides in housing development within the first two decades after independence.”
He cited the first National Development Plan of 1962–1968 which saw ‘young’ Nigeria establishing state-owned housing corporation for the provision of urban infrastructure and industrial estates in three key areas, including Lagos in South West, Port-Harcourt in South East and Kaduna in the North.
He added that the second National Development Plan from 1970 to 1974 saw the establishment of National Council on Housing and the creation of Federal Housing Authority (FHA) in charge of housing Nigerians and the establishment of National Housing Programme (NHP) to construct about 59,000 housing projects.
Odunayo lamented that 62 years after, mortgage which is a major vehicle for owning homes in other economies remains largely under-developed in Nigeria.
The Association of Housing Corporation of Nigeria (AHCN) says the underdevelopment of Nigeria’s mortgage sector in driving homeownership is worrisome as more than 90 percent of new homes are built from personal savings.
“Mortgage loans in Nigeria account for less than 1 percent of the loan portfolio of commercial banks, and only about 5 percent, or 685,000 of the housing units in the country are financed using mortgages,” Odunayo noted.
“When you compare what obtains in Nigeria with those of other African countries like Ghana and South Africa, you find that, in South Africa, mortgage contributes about 40 percent of housing finance while in Ghana, our West African neighbour, the contribution is 3 percent,” he said.
As for infrastructure which accounts for about 30 percent of housing construction cost, he reasoned with the World Bank which has advised that governments should stimulate investment in infrastructure by providing funding solution for lenders by linking them with the capital markets.
He advised further that rather than going into direct housing construction as they do presently, governments should prioritise infrastructure development and this must include massive construction of road networks to be followed by a well articulated transport system to open up the country, especially the hinterlands, for more housing development.
He believes that besides providing homes for the citizens, with a population estimated at 200 million, Nigeria is a large market that presents a lot of possibilities and opportunities which investors, domestic or foreign, should see as a compelling destination.