Apparently, poor and needy home seekers in Nigeria have been left to their fate as governments at both state and federal levels whose duty it is to provide homes for them are looking away.
No serious efforts at providing social housing in Nigeria have been made since 1983- 40 years ago – when the Shehu Shagari-led federal government and the Lateef Jakande administration in Lagos provided low-cost housing for citizens.
Anywhere in the world, it is the responsibility of governments to provide housing for the poor and vulnerable people who have special needs, social commentators say. They maintain that social housing is the term given to such accommodation usually provided at affordable rates, on a secure basis, to people on low incomes or with particular needs, adding that such houses are usually owned by the state, in the form of councils, or by non-profit organisations such as housing associations.
“Social housing is literally non-existent in Nigeria at the moment as governments at both federal and state levels have faltered on schemes planned to deliver such houses while private investors remain indifferent to developing for people who need such houses,” Taofeek Olowookere, an estate consultant, told BusinessDay.
Olowookere, who also manages estates, noted that since Shagari and Jakande whatever any government has said or done as social housing or low-cost housing has ended up as mere paperwork or political statements aimed to achieve selfish interests.
According to him, while private developers say they don’t want to build social housing because they spend a lot of money to acquire land and the cost of building materials is high, the governments who seem to be competing with the private sector say they also buy materials from the same market.
Babatunde Fashola, immediate past minister of works and housing, once said that the government could not deliver low-cost housing, citing the high cost of input materials and scarcity of land, especially in states like Lagos and Rivers where land is in high demand and attracts high prices.
Read also: Social housing and a struggling economy
As part of its response to the adverse impact of COVID-19, the Muhamadu Buhari administration set aside N200 billion for a social housing scheme as one of the planned schemes under the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) which was mid-wife by former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who led the Economic Sustainability Committee. To date, that scheme has not produced the desired result.
The N200 billion which was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC)and supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was aimed to provide 300,000 low-income houses, as well as create 1.8 million jobs in the process. Reports on this intervention are neither here nor there.
The Buhari administration also made an attempt at providing social housing with the setting up of the Family Home Funds (FHF). When the fund was launched in 2017, it came as a social housing intervention programme with the mandate to raise and invest, within five years, N1.3 trillion for the development of 500,000 homes for people on low income.
The expectation was that the fund would, in the process, create up to 1,500,000 jobs and enable homeownership through its creative products.
The available record shows that, to date, FHF has financed the development of only 11,700 homes for low-income earners across some states in Nigeria including Delta, Ogun, Kano, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Yobe, Bauchi, Borno, Adamawa, and created just 64,000 direct and indirect jobs in the process.
“The problem with FHF is not only that it has failed to live up to expectations, but also that some of the few houses they have built are unaffordable to those who are the target audience for the scheme,” Olowookere noted.
He noted further that with the houses built across the country by the Buhari administration, a new price for houses in the real estate market was set, especially for one-bedroom house types which cost between N7,222,404 and N9,268,751, pointing out that these are houses in obscure locations and uncompleted.
Commenting on this, Ahmed Dangiwa, the minister for housing and urban development, said recently that the prices were beyond the reach of the target market – low to medium-income earners, and the locations were inaccessible.
“This situation has tied up significant government funds, and without swift action, these houses could begin to deteriorate. One assurance I can provide is that, under my leadership, I will prioritise affordability in house design and delivery.
In the case of this specific project, we will carefully study and review the factors that led to the current pricing and determine the best approach to make these houses accessible to Nigerians. The goal is to promote affordability, attract potential buyers, and ultimately ensure that these housing units benefit Nigerians,” he said.