Nigeria has over 17 million housing deficits and the Federal Government is exploring ways to tackle them fast. To meet this demand, the housing sector has to produce over 700,000 units of housing every year, and unfortunately, the formal sector is only churning out about 1000 units a year, according to Eme Essien Lore, country manager of International Finance Corporation (IFC)
This phenomenon is not peculiar to Nigeria alone as increasing urbanization and world population; housing markets in developing countries are facing substantial changes and struggling to cope with increasing demand. There is need for every human, regardless of their socio-economic status to have access to a decent and healthy living condition.
There is no single panacea that will eradicate poverty worldwide, but there are growing innovative ways to improve the living conditions of low-income people by making their built environment affordable and sustainable, furthermore reducing slums.
This is not to say building projects are not ongoing, most especially by estate developers, but the emphasis here is on “affordability” an attribute which these buildings do not have. Government is also trying in its own way, but more needs to be done
According to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, the government needs at least N37billion yearly to facilitate building projects in every state of the federation. He also said there are neither policies nor standards guiding housing in Nigeria and where there are policies, they are not being followed. There is also need for the government to review the existing policies in the housing sector to address deficit.
In order to make this achievable, government needs to buckle up and act faster in this regard. There is a need for improved synergy between the governments at all levels and the private sector in the building industry in the provision of mass housing to Nigerians, most especially in the area of local content manufacturing of building materials, as this would eventually reduce the cost of the houses.
For example while on tour of some local manufacturing companies, the Minister advocated the use of polystyerene, which is cheaper, noise proof, self-fire extinguishing and also weather regulating would be encouraged for building as this will reduce cost.
In this period of recession, the government is also mulling the idea of giving out building projects to different companies within a state, as opposed to giving one company. This would enable quicker completion rate and also employ more people, thereby increasing money in circulation.
Private companies like Lafarge Africa are making efforts to play their role in reducing the deficit they provide housing microloans borrowers with free technical assistance to help owners throughout the construction projects, from preparation of drawing, optimization of the bill of quantities to the supervision of job sites. The end result of this technical assistance is a significant improvement in the quality and safety of the construction projects. Furthermore, in partnership with the French Development Agency and LAPO Microfinance Bank in 2013, Lafarge undertook the construction of low-cost housing tagged Ile Irorun for 3,500 low-income earners targeting at first 400 low-income earners in Sagamu and Abeokuta, Ogun state under the pilot scheme.
But beyond these, experts have advocated other things as well. It has been suggested that the bureaucracies involved in the acquisition of land needs to be reduced. There are too many procedures to registering a property in Nigeria, each with its own physical and financial rigors, this is unsustainable! This is also part of cost hike in house sales, apart from high taxes and high cost of building materials.
Also, the Federal Mortgage Bank, the official bank/source for housing projects needs to be repositioned to better perform its statutory function so that government on its part would concentrate more on ensuring the provision of acceptable housing designs.