Nigeria’s housing deficit data unreliable – Experts

Experts in Nigeria’s housing sector have explained why data on the country’s housing deficit are largely inaccurate and unreliable.

For many years, the country’s housing deficit has been put at 17 million units.

In recent times, the figure has been put variously at 20 million and 22 million. The most recent figure is 28 million units and that is coming from the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria and the International Human Rights Commission.

At every instance, the figure is pitched against population and urbanisation growth rate, estimated at 2.6 percent and 4.2 percent per annum respectively.

But, according to experts who spoke at the Africa International Housing Show (AIHS) in Abuja, it is difficult to believe or rely on any of these figures because they are not grounded in research.

This has been the position of the country’s works and housing minister, Babatunde Fashola, who insists that there is no housing deficit in the country, challenging any expert or analyst with figures based on research to come forward and defend it.

Fashola contends that if at all there is any deficit in the housing sector, it is an urban-based problem caused by urbanisation. “How do you talk about the deficit when there are so many houses locked up in the villages by owners who now reside in the cities?” the minister queried.

Timothy Nubi, a professor and director of Research and Innovations Office, University of Lagos, and founder of Ideal Habitat Initiative, said besides research, there are categories of structures that the UN does not include in its statistics while talking about housing deficit.

“Houses without basic amenities and the ones located in an environment without basic infrastructure belong to this category,” Nubi said. “We keep saying we have housing shortages when many of our structures do not meet international standards.”

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He advised that resources should not only be channelled to building new houses, adding that the Family Homes Funds (FHF) should provide funds to citizens for putting existing or dilapidated homes into good shape.

“FHF must spend on research. We cannot continue to do things on assumptions. If you want to go fast, walk alone; but if you want to go further, carry everyone along,” he advised further, saying, “we can never say we don’t need the government. We need them to do what we ought to do. We need a government that will implement all we have discussed here at AIHS 2022.”

Earlier, Toyin Ayinde, national president of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, had noted that the growth in Nigeria’s housing deficit was as a result of persisting lack of low-cost or affordable housing which he blamed on the “conspiracy of the rich.”

Ayinde, who was represented at the housing show by Nathaniel Atebije, the first national vice president of the institute, said one of the cardinal issues that hindered low-income earners from enjoying affordable housing had to do with location.

He pointed out that rural settlements, which harbour the greater number of the nation’s population, are not given proper attention in terms of planning and development. He explained that location, which is a function of planning, must be put into consideration. “The bedrock of any sustainable housing development is planning,” he said.

“When we come to terms with the realities that we find on ground, it is important that we make plans for such places where the low-income people stay. The rich need the poor and the poor also need the rich; the children of the poor that you are refusing to train today, will constitute a great challenge to you tomorrow,” he said.

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